Students punished for poor finishing
It's tricky to avoid using the old "game of two halves" cliche about this one. It was certainly the phrase the Dundalk manager, Jim McLaughlin, fell back on early in his post-match comments. He admitted his side were lucky not to come in for the break behind by a few, and unfortunate by the end not to have won by more. Nobody in the UCD camp needed to be reminded about their problems up front over the first third or so of the campaign, the fact that they have averaged less than a goal so far being the main reason for their lowly position in the table. Nevertheless, the home side's bench were put through an agonising time early on as all of their shortcomings in that department were painfully illustrated and one chance after another was squandered.
Mick O'Byrne has been the students' most reliable source of goals over the past couple of years but he now partners Ciaran Kavanagh in midfield where, yesterday, the pair were instrumental in giving the Dubliners a considerable degree of control through the opening exchanges.
Kavanagh, Jason Sherlock and O'Byrne all went close within eight minutes of the start and it was, with the exception of what looked to be a foul by Tony McDonnell on Raymond Campbell midway through the half, always the home side who looked the more likely to start the scoring.
Steve Williams played his part in keeping his side level but he really shouldn't have been given any chance whatsoever to intervene on the half hour when Robert Griffin crossed from the right for Michael O'Donnell who either miskicked or attempted a pass when half of the goal lay empty before him.
It would have been no more than the hosts deserved for their movement of the ball up to then had been excellent even if their crossing was, more than once, a little disappointing. Having repeatedly passed up the opportunity to poke their noses in front, though, it became somewhat inevitable that they would be punished and sure enough, with eight minutes of the half remaining, Seamus Kelly mistimed his challenge for Paul Carlyle's cross from the right and Mick Doohan rose high to head home from six yards.
The locals' weakness on their left side was to remain a problem for the rest of the game and 15 minutes into the second period it was again exploited by the Dundalk midfield with Raymond McCoy getting almost to the corner flag before sending in a marvellous cross which Noel Melvin met decisively at the far post.
From then on McLaughlin's side took control with Campbell, Brian Byrne and McCoy causing all sorts of problems around the area. It was the latter two who linked up for the third goal, Byrne setting the Northerner off on a 60yard run for goal after the home side had foolishly pushed every man at least 15 yards inside the Dundalk half for a mere throw in.
By then the home side's desperation had been fuelled by another missed chance, O'Donnell this time shooting lamely at David Hoey on the line, and when the third went in with 10 minutes remaining they must have known the game was up. Six minutes later Griffin scored a tap in after O'Donnell had taken down Robert McAuley's cross from the left but even then they looked vulnerable at the back where Byrne almost set up Campbell after rounding Kelly and McCoy drove just wide of the angle.
UCD: Kelly; Bolger, McDonnell, Lynch, McAuley; Martin, Kavanagh, O'Byrne, O'Donnell; Sherlock, Griffin. Sub: Kilmurray for Martin (64 mins).
Dundalk: Williams; Hoey, Doohan, Brady, Crawley; Carlyle, McNulty, Melvin, McCoy; Byrne, Withnell. Subs: Campbell for Withnell (21 mins), Jauny for Carlyle (78 mins).
Referee: J O'Neill (Waterford).