Cahal McAuley reporting from the UCD Bowl.
UCD secured third place in the First Division and a home playoff match after a 2-1 win over Treaty United in a tight game at the UCD Bowl on Friday.
A Liam Kerrigan brace either side of a Dean George equaliser was enough to secure all three points for the Students as they strengthened their position in the playoffs in their last home league game of the season.
Both sides ensured their playoffs spots last week but there was still much to play for as it is very possible that they will meet again in a few weeks time.
After an uneventful opening few minutes, the Students came close to breaking the deadlock first as Sam Todd found himself completely unmarked from a corner, but saw his header saved by Tadhg Ryan.
UCD began to gain a grip on proceedings after this first chance with Colm Whelan and Liam Kerrigan’s interplay on the break causing problems for the Treaty defence.
The Students got their goal inside the opening quarter of an hour through a simple but pinpoint long ball over the top from Sam Todd which was brought under control by Kerrigan with the UCD forward able to outmuscle his marker and fire a powerful finish past Ryan to give his side the lead.
Tommy Barrett will surely have been fuming due to the simplicity of the goal, but it was no less than UCD deserved as they began to dominate the ball.
The Limerick side managed not to cough up any more chances until the half hour mark when the Students began to push harder for an important second goal.
Sean Brennan stung Ryan’s palms with an effort from the edge of the box while Sam Todd displayed his aerial prowess for the second time, striking the crossbar with a looping header from the resulting corner.
Treaty offered little in the way of attacking threat in the opening 45, but did produce a couple of half chances near the break to demonstrate the dangerous nature of the UCD lead.
Willie Armshaw received the ball through a number of bodies on the edge of the box, but his deflected effort was easily claimed by Healy, who had been mostly a spectator until that point.
The visitors could have snatched an unlikely equaliser deep into stoppage time as Charlie Fleming’s cross bounced off Healy and fortunately away from any onrushing attackers as UCD went in a goal to the good after mostly controlling the half.
The momentum of the game flipped drastically after the interval as Treaty grabbed an equaliser just five minutes after the restart.
Todd, who had put in a near perfect display, was brushed aside by Dean George who calmly slotted the ball past Healy and draw his side level after being dominated for most of the game.
Treaty had their tails up after the equaliser and pushed for a second as Joe Collins saw a deflected effort drift agonisingly wide with Healy being forced to palm away a dangerous low cross just moments later.
George almost scored for a second time, but his acrobatic effort fell just over the bar and the Students were able to survive the Treaty pressure without conceding further.
Momentum shifted back towards UCD around the hour mark, but they couldn’t work Ryan in the Treaty goal until Whelan, who had a quiet game by his standards, tried to curl a shot round the Treaty keeper but didn’t manage to get enough power on the effort.
The Students retook the lead shortly after through some good work by Kerrigan along with a large slice of fortune.
Kerrigan powered his way through to the Treaty penalty area, passing the ball forward with Anthony O’Donnell turning the ball into his own net. The UCD man was credited with scoring, but it looked more like an own goal from the Treaty defender.
This cruel blow knocked the wind out of the visitors, and they didn’t come close to restoring parity for a second time.
Kerrigan’s influence on the game continued to grow in the closing stages as he almost turned provider to substitute Evan Caffrey, but his curling effort flew just wide of the post.
UCD almost made it 3-1 in stoppage time as Kerrigan’s long range free kicked bounced wide amidst confusion in the penalty area. Colm Whelan found himself close to goal well into stoppage time and could have pulled it back, but the ball bounced off Ryan and out for a corner as the Students secured an important three points as the playoff picture becomes clearer.
The home side dominated the game aside from the 15 minutes after the break where Treaty were close to taking the lead on a couple of occasions.
The Students have won two on the trot and can play with the pressure off away to champions Shelbourne next week while Treaty will attempt to secure fourth place with a trip to Cabinteely.
UCD will now be at home to either Treaty or Bray Wanderers in their first playoff game.
UCD: Lorcan Healy; Sam Todd, Evan Osam, Evan Farrell; Adam Verdon (Evan Caffrey 63), Harvey O'Brien, Jack Keaney (c), Paul Doyle (Adam Lennon 63), Sean Brennan (Harry McEvoy 89); Colm Whelan, Liam Kerrigan.
Subs not used: Carl Williams, Ciaran Behan, Luke Boore, Lennon Gill, Danu Kinsella Bishop.
Sent off: None.
Treaty United: Tadhg Ryan; Anthony O'Donnell, Marc Ludden, Charlie Fleming; Mark Walsh, Callum McNamara (Sean Oyibo 83), Joel Coustrain (Bryan Murphy 63), Joe Collins (Matt Keane 83), William Armshaw; Sean Guerins, Dean George (Stephen Christopher 63).
Subs not used: Sean McCormack, Alan Murphy, Clyde O'Connell.
Booked: William Armshaw (88) .
Sent off: None.
Referee: Gavin Colfer
extratime.com Player of the Match: Liam Kerrigan (UCD)