The Seagulls and the Students face off at Dalymount Park on Friday night for an opportunity to face off against the ninth placed Premier Division side – Finn harps or Waterford, for a place in the top tier in the League of Ireland (kick-off 7.45pm).
Bray Wanderers might be considered somewhat of a surprise packet to have made it to the promotion play off final having only finished in fifth place in the league table on 37 points.
In addition, they lost their last three league games of the season, conceding seven goals in those matches, and then could only manage a 0-0 draw in the home leg of their promotion play off semi-final match against Galway United.
A single goal in the away leg at Eamonn Deacy Park was enough to propel them into the final, Brandon Kavanagh’s excellent strike capping a great season for the Shamrock Rovers loanee.
The Seagull’s manager Gary Cronin is well aware of the important of this fixture and he spoke to the media this week of his squad’s preparation, saying, “Training has been good. The last week in particular; you’re just ticking over and trying to be mindful of not getting any injuries in training because we want as many people as possible available for the game.
“There has been a good atmosphere and a good buzz and we’re just looking forward to the game on Friday because it’s an even bigger game. These are the kinds of games that the lads want to be involved in.’’
“You’ve got to be confident going into these games and I’m sure UCD will be the same. You have to have that air of confidence,” he added.
“You don’t want any negativity around the squad or anything like that. We’ll be prepared and we’ll leave no stone unturned going into the game.
“We’ll prepare the very, very best we can and then on the night; you’ll need your plan to fall into place and obviously it doesn’t always go that way so you might need a bit of luck and a few decisions to go your way; that’s the nature of football and sport.
“Whether it’s 90 minutes or 120 minutes, we’ll do everything we can to be victorious by the end of it.”
UCD finished the season on 46 points and in third position and so were paired with fourth placed Treaty United at the promotion play off two-legged semi-final stage.
They really wrapped up their place in the final with a comprehensive 3-0 win in the away leg down in the Markets Field in Limerick, goals from Paul Doyle and Colm Whelan (2) giving them a huge advantage for the home leg.
The game at the Belfield Bowl turned out to be anything but straightforward however as a rejuvenated Treaty side went on the offensive from the outset and had one goal clawed back as early as the fourth minute with a fine Conor Melody strike from the edge of the box.
An upset certainly seemed on the cards in the 51st minute when defender Anthony O’ Donnell scored their second goal but all the good work was undone in the 54th minute when Tommy Barrett’s side had a player red carded and were reduced to ten men.
The numerical disadvantage proved too much for the Limerick side and UCD went on to restore their two-goal advantage when Adam Verdon scored an insurance goal on the 68th minute.
The last two league games between the sides this season produced 11 goals in total and with Colm Whelan in particular in fine goal scoring form this season, manager Andy Myler will be home their attacking prowess will be sufficient to enable them to win this final and take them one step closer to the Premier Division. UCD were relegated from the Premier Division back to the First Division in the 2019 season.
Referee: Oliver Moran
The honours between these two sides have been very even this season, each side recording one win each with the first fixture back in April being a 0-0 draw.
Wanderers had a great 4-0 win at home in June, a Joe Doyle brace and goals from Darren Craven and Conor Clifford sealing the three points.
Bray also scored three goals in the match in Belfield in September, however they were mere consolation goals as they all came very late in the match courtesy of a Gary Shaw hat trick. UCD dominated that match and scored four goals through Harvey O’ Brien, Sam Todd, Liam Kerrigan and Eoin Farrell to secure a 4-3 victory.
UCD 2-1 Bray Wanderers
Bray Wanderers 2/1; Draw 11/5; UCD 6/5
Doubtful: Sean Callan, Gary Shaw