Shamrock Rovers 2 – 1 UCD
UCD AFC took to Tallaght Stadium on Friday evening looking for a sixth win in seven matches, but left without following a 2-1 defeat. A first half brace from the outgoing Gary Twigg capped off an otherwise average performance from last year’s champions Shamrock Rovers. David McMillan clawed one back as the Students gave a decent account of themselves in a tough away fixture.
The match began quietly; neither Ger Barron nor home keeper Oscar Jansson had much to do in the opening fifteen minutes. Rovers’ first major chance fell to Gary Twigg, who has recently announced that he will depart his club of four years in favour of a move to the Irish League after season’s end.
Unluckily for UCD, Twigg was certainly in the mood to mark his last game at Tallaght Stadium in style. Having latched onto Billy Dennehy’s pass, he side-stepped Hugh Douglas, rounded Barron and made no mistake with the finish with just eighteen minutes on the clock.
Just a few minutes later, Stephen Rice put it on a plate for the Hoops hero of the evening (and indeed the past four seasons), who slotted the ball past the UCD custodian for his second of the night and his last goal in Tallaght.
David McMillan was on hand to capitalise as the hosts took their eye off the ball following Twigg’s celebrations. Just two minutes after the Scot had doubled Rovers’ lead, McMillan halved it again with a volley that curled just over Jansson’s fingertips and into the back of the net.
McMillan had another chance again shortly after but Jansson was equal to his headed attempt this time around. At the other end, Twigg had his hopes of a hat trick dashed when Ciaran Nangle blocked his header. Barron was kept busy, brilliantly keeping out a Billy Dennehy effort from distance.
Half time came and went and captain Mick Leahy was booked within minutes of the restart. Samir Belhout could have equalised for the Students, but his shot was deflected inches wide of the post and nothing came out of the resulting corner. McMillan was almost through on goal when Jansson fouled him at the edge of the box, the goalkeeper earning a yellow card for his troubles and conceding a free kick, however Paul O’Conor’s resulting effort was just over the bar.
The visitors had a handful of handball shouts, but referee Paul Tuite rejected their calls for a penalty on two occasions. Gary Twigg left the pitch emotionally – Gary O’Neill coming on to replace him after 75 minutes – to a rapturous applause from devoted Rovers fans who have shared many highs and lows with the Scotsman since his arrival in Tallaght in 2009.
Without their talismanic striker, Rovers took a back seat somewhat as UCD pushed for an equaliser. McMillan attempted an incredible chip from 30 yards out, forcing an exceptional save from Rovers’ Swedish goalkeeper and Robbie Benson shot just wide in added time, but it was to be a win for the Hoops and they saw out their 2-1 lead adequately if not comfortably.
Despite their plucky display, the Students will rue their missed opportunities. Next up is their final game of the season: at home to Shelbourne on Friday. Guaranteed ninth place in the table, they can only aim to increase their points tally to a respectable 33 with a win.
By Amy Eustace – Sports Editor