Andrew Dempsey reports from the Belfield Bowl
UCD's brief one year stay in the Premier Division came to a shuddering halt after suffering a 3-0 defeat at home to Shamrock Rovers in their penultimate game of the season.
Joey O’Brien and Graham Cummins in the first half and Brandon Kavanagh in the second all netted for the visitors who were rarely challenged by their survival seeking counterparts.
On the brink of relegation after defeat last week away to Cork City, UCD boss Maciej Tarnogrodzki made three changes to his starting XI, with Liam Scales returning from international duty with Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland under-21 side.
Hoops boss Stephen Bradley made four alterations himself, with former Students winger Neil Farrugia retaining his place in the starting side, while Joey O’Brien also returned to the fold.
With their fate all but sealed, the Students went with a flat back four, with forward and top scorer Yoyo Mahdy leading the line.
However, it was the visitors who had the first effort of the game two minutes in, with Brandon Kavanagh’s free-kick being comfortably saved by Conor Kearns in the UCD goal, before Graham Cummins saw his headed effort clip off the top of the bar minutes later.
The early dominance for the Hoops was rewarded soon after, as defender Joey O’Brien scored his second goal of the season right under the nose of Kearns in the UCD goal.
Former Student Dylan Watts found Lee Grace free at the back post, who nodded the ball back into the path of O’Brien who made no mistake from close range.
The visitors ought to have made it two a couple of minutes later, when Cummins went mightily close from a Neil Farrugia pull-back, before shooting wide of goal as the Students appeared to be on the ropes momentarily.
Rovers continued to press, and if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of Kearns, they would have scored their second of the night through Cummins.
Cummins was fed in by a delightful Aaron McEneff flick, before the 21-year-old Irish under-21 international tipped the ball over the bar, when it appeared easier to score than miss.
The Students were overrun at times in the first-half, with the Hoops experience and nous proving too much for their opposition who struggled to produce any meaningful opportunities of note.
With the half-time whistle approaching, the Hoops made it two-nil through Cummins who headed home at the back post.
While it was Cummins’ goal, all the credit must surely go to Farrugia who beat not one, but two UCD defenders to clip the ball into the striker’s path who finished with a deft header.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first period, with the Belfield Boys finding it very difficult to find any sort of an attacking rhythm going.
Aaron McEneff saw a free-kick tipped wide of goal by an alert Kearns who was forced into action just minutes into the second period with a superb save.
Having been their saviour for much of the game, the UCD ‘keeper was soon punished for an unfortunate miscommunication - with Kavanagh slotting home into an empty net.
The 19 year old passed into an empty goal - scoring his first league goal for the Hoops – as Kearns slipped while dealing with a pass-back, as Rovers threatened to run riot at the UCD Bowl.
To their credit, UCD pushed forward at each possible opportunity, but they were ultimately unable to break down a stubborn Shamrock Rovers rear-guard.
Richie O’Farrell went close with just under two minutes of regulation time to play, but his effort was comfortably saved by Alan Mannus – who had precious little to do beforehand.
All in all, it was a limp end to the Students tumultuous Premier Division stay, with the string of player departures in at the start of the summer months costing them dear in the end.
However, while it was a routine win for the visitors, they will be concerned about the fitness of both Farrugia and Watts, who were both forced off injured.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Evan Farrell, Richie O'Farrell, Liam Scales, Dan Tobin; Mark Dignam, Paul Doyle, Dara Keane (Ciaran Behan, 88), Jack Keaney, Jason McClelland (Sean McDonald, 69); Yousef Mahdy (Sam Byrne, 20).
Subs not used: Danu Kinsella Bishop, Harry McEvoy, Aaron McGrath, Gavin Sheridan.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Lee Grace, Daniel Lafferty, Joey O'Brien (Robert Lopes, 61); Ethan Boyle, Greg Bolger, Neil Farrugia, Brandon Kavanagh, Aaron McEneff (Graham Burke, 61), Dylan Watts (Gary O’Neill, 29); Graham Cummins.
Subs not used: Kian Clarke, Ronan Finn, Aaron Greene, Sean Kavanagh.
Booked: Greg Bolger (58).
Referee: Graham Kelly.
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Neil Farrugia (Shamrock Rovers).