Two beautiful goals from Colm Whelan and Paul Doyle gave UCD a convincing 2-0 victory over Bray Wanderers at Dalymount Park this evening. The students delivered an excellent performance in this high stakes affair to set up a do or die clash with Waterford FC.
Andy Myler made two changes from the side who dispatched Treaty United in the semi-final second-leg with Michael Gallagher and Sean Brennan replacing Eoin Farrell and Adam Verdon.
The game took a while to settle as both sides struggled to get into a rhythm, however, the quality of Whelan and Kerrigan stood out. As UCD grew into the game, Bray started to use their physicality to manage the energetic students.
Colm Whelan was well marked but UCD found a lot of joy down their right flank. Liam Kerrigan’s speed and dribbling quality gave the opposition a headache all throughout the half. Kerrigan won a couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions, however, the students failed to trouble Maher in goal.
The best chance of the first-half came on 37 minutes. A darting run by Dara Keane toward the byline and a lovely pull-back set up Whelan who rattled the Bray woodwork. Bray Wanderers managed to hold out to halftime but were fortunate to go in level at the break.
The Wicklow side was far better at the restart, however. The tempo of the game was much higher and both teams had chances. For the first 15 minutes of the second half, UCD were pinned back and struggled to hold the ball high up the pitch. Meanwhile, the UCD defence had to carefully manage Wanderers forward, Joe Doyle, who looked a dangerous threat.
Eventually, the students managed to wrestle back control after the half-hour mark. On 66 minutes a well-won free-kick from Colm Whelan gave UCD the opening they were looking for. Whelan took an ambitious long-range strike that managed to rattle the Bray goal. Despite the quality of the strike, an inquest took place between the Bray wall and goalkeeper as to how Whelan was able to convert from such a distance.
Despite taking the lead, UCD were not content to sit back. As the game edged on both teams pushed forward, opening the game up. Bray Wanderers made some changes and put two up top. This gave the UCD midfield a lot of space and time on the ball which they used to devastating effects.
Moments after Bray Wanderers failed to capitalise on a glorious chance, UCD doubled their lead. With just three minutes on the clock, Paul Doyle demonstrated great composure as he perfectly controlled a pinged pass and slotted it into the far corner, much to the delight of the travelling UCD fans.
Elsewhere tonight, Waterford and Finn Harps played out a scoreless draw. This means the students will face Waterford in an all or nothing fight for the final spot in the League of Ireland Premier Division on offer. Given the quality on display in Dalymount tonight, the students can take a lot of confidence into this massive clash.
Conor Paterson – Co-Editor