League Report: UCD 0 - 0 Shamrock Rovers
Macdara Ferris reports from UCD Bowl
A strong defensive display from the Students in a scoreless stalemate against Shamrock Rovers wasn’t enough to save them from relegation as UCD couldn’t get the win required to give them a stay of execution for another week.
In truth the home side never troubled Shamrock Rovers offensively but thwarted the Hoops, who couldn’t find a break through. It looked like Rovers would suffer a real dent in the title ambitions.
However, with Derry City losing in Sligo, the Hoops extended their lead at the top of the table to five points with just five matches remaining but St. Patrick’s Athletic now come into the picture.
UCD confirmed on the eve of the game that Andy Myler would be leaving the managerial role at the end of the season and whether his team talk involved saying “nobody beat UCD 16 times in a row” that was the case as the Students avoided defeat against the Hoops in the league for the first time in a decade.
Unsurprisingly it was all one way traffic in the first half – so much so that the clock had ticked past the half an hour mark before Hoops goalkeeper Alan Mannus got a touch of the football.
For all Rovers’ dominance, Kian Moore in the UCD goal didn’t have that much to do but what he did was done well. His best contribution was blocking a goal bound effort with his right foot in the eighth minute from Neil Farrugia.
The former UCD wing-back was making his first start since June while on the opposite flank it was Trevor Clarke’s first time in Stephen Bradley’s starting line up since May. Farrugia was the standout player for the Hoops who would have been better getting the ball to him more.
Rovers racked up a series of six first half corners that, with Jack Byrne still out and Markus Poom on the bench, were swung into the box by Dylan Watts. Rovers failed to capitalise on those set pieces – only a Farrugia header in the 26th minute might have worried the home supporters but it went wide.
After Farrugia was fouled by Sean Brennan, Graham Burke lined up a free kick that went through several bodies with Moore doing well to hang onto the ball under pressure from the onrushing Rovers attackers.
UCD skipper Jack Keaney marshalled his back five well and his touch was helpful to prevent Gaffney getting his shot by Moore when he partially blocked Burke’s lateral centre in the box five minutes before the break.
While Watts drilled another free into the UCD wall after a Burke foul and some Sean Hoare trickier on the right Gaffney also went close the Hoops couldn’t find the back of the net. When the half time whistle went, Rovers supporters were left wondering just how their team hadn’t created more clear cut opportunities from all the play that they had.
Bradley brought on Aaron Greene in place of Watts ten minutes into the second half to add a bit more directness and he almost put the Hoops in front moments after coming on but he couldn’t quite get Burt’s centre, off a Burke one-two, out from under his feet to finish.
The level of frustration grew amongst the sizeable away support. Greene hit the side netting and Liam Burt’s low drive was well saved by Moore. Rovers looked to move the home team and break through the UCD rear guard but they never quite managed the killer pass.
The scoreless draw meant the Students have gone 11 league matches without finding the back of the net against Rovers but it will be at least a full season before they get the chance to go head-to-head with the Hoops in league action again now their relegation has been confirmed.
Rovers have that five point lead over Derry City and are six clear of St. Patrick’s Athletic who have a game in hand (against Drogheda United on Monday). The Hoops are back in action at home to Shelbourne next Friday night before a three week break due to internationals and the FAI Cup semi-finals.
UCD: Kian Moore; Harry Curtis (Evan Osam 61), Harvey O'Brien, Jack Keaney, Éanna Clancy, Luke O'Regan; Adam Verdon, Seán Brennan; Dara Keane Keane (Brendan Barr 81), Ciaran Behan; Jake Doyle (Danú Kinsella-Bishop 67).
Subs not used: Lorcan Healy, Jesse Dempsey, Daniel Babb, Donal Higgins, Daniel Norris, Michael Raggett.
Booked: Adam Verdon (43), Seán Brennan (66).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Daniel Cleary, Roberto Lopes, Seán Hoare; Neil Farrugia, Gary O'Neill, Dylan Watts (Aaron Greene 55), Trevor Clarke; Graham Burke, Rory Gaffney, Liam Burt (Najemedine Razi 85).
Subs not used: Léon-Maurice Pöhls, Seán Gannon, Ronan Finn, Darragh Nugent, Markus Poom, Simon Power, Conan Noonan.
Referee: Kevin O’Sullivan (Cork)
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate)
extratime.com Player of the Match: Jack Keaney (UCD)