Dundalk FC's Patrick Hoban made history this afternoon, scoring against UCD in Belfield. (Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
UCD 1-3 Dundalk FC
Michael Duffy pulled a rabbit from a hat to complete the comeback as Dundalk FC recovered from an early shock to pass their Easter Monday test at UCD, making it a third SSE Airtricity League Premier Division win on the spin.
The teams traded blows in the opening quarter-hour, with Yoyo Mahdy’s clinical opener quickly cancelled out by Patrick Hoban’s fifth penalty of the season. In doing so, Hoban equalled Joey Donnelly’s haul of 69 league goals for the club.
Conor Kearns and Gary Rogers were both called into action during a lively first half. UCD’s Neil Farrugia and Dundalk’s Duffy, Jamie McGrath, Seán Gannon and Chris Shields all threatened, but nothing could separate the sides at half-time.
That changed five minutes into the second half when the decisive strike arrived, as Duffy’s delightful skill gave him space in the box and he rounded Kearns before firing to the empty net. For good measure, former Student Georgie Kelly rolled in an injury-time third.
Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth had made just one switch from the team that comfortably saw off Finn Harps at home three days earlier as Dean Jarvis replaced Dane Massey at left-back.
Duffy had taken part in some fitness work with physio Danny Miller two hours before kick-off. However, the winger – who has been struggling with an injury for over seven weeks – was named in the starting XI.
UCD, meanwhile, made three changes from Good Friday’s game at Bohemians. That was a 3-0 defeat at Dalymount Park, but one where the Students had performed well before conceding. Seán McDonald, Timmy Molloy and Conor Davis were the fresh faces in the lineup. Mahdy was the lone striker.
The Shamrock Rovers management team of Stephen Bradley, Glenn Cronin and Stephen McPhail were all in attendance, ahead of the league leaders’ trip to Oriel Park this coming Friday. They face Bohemians in a Dublin Derby on Tuesday. Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager Stephen Kenny was another interested spectator; he took part in a half-time chat with the Hoops trio.
UCD made problems for themselves in the opening 10 minutes, with misplaced passes and mistakes at the back. That included from ‘keeper Kearns who was lucky to get away with an attempted clearance that he sliced behind.
But Dundalk were stunned on 11 minutes when Davis split the defence and Mahdy coolly slotted a low shot past the out-rushing Rogers.
That had come against the run of play, and it was not long before the Lilywhites were back on level terms. McGrath was the creator as he broke in on the right of the area, and at the by-line he was taken down by Paul Doyle. Hoban stepped up to hammer in from the spot.
It was almost a quick turnaround as Duffy brought a fine save out of Kearns with a 17th minute free-kick, which was curled up and over the wall, but the UCD stopper got across well to push it wide.
Collie O’Neill’s hosts were proving dangerous when they got possession in the final third, and they almost reclaimed the lead on 20 minutes when Farrugia found space. However – unlike with his rocket at Oriel Park in February – the Irish underage star was this time denied by Rogers who produced a brilliant block at his near post.
In an entertaining game, Dundalk threatened again on 27 minutes when Duffy delivered a pinpoint cross from the left for Hoban to head goalwards but Kearns did enough to clear it off the line.
Soon, it was Jarvis causing problems down the same flank, with his cross to the back post going all the way to Gannon; his drilled shot was blocked behind by the foot of Kearns.
On 36 minutes, UCD sloppily conceded the ball in midfield and it was almost costly as McGrath curled a strike agonisingly past the post from 18 yards. Shields then had a fierce snap-shot that Kearns reacted well to.
There was controversy at the very end of the first half. Time had elapsed when Jarvis won a corner, which McGrath delivered. UCD had initially cleared the set-piece, but with Duffy about to hit a shot, Damien MacGraith blew the whistle for the break. Duffy’s volley struck the net, leading to Dundalk players surrounding the referee, but in truth UCD had stopped playing.
On 50 minutes, though, Duffy got the lead goal when an exquisite touch took him away from the defence and he skipped past Kearns before firing in.
Hoban was not far from breaking the record with 15 minutes to go, but his header from a McGrath corner went past the top corner.
Kelly was soon introduced in place of Dundalk’s top-scorer, and Jordan Flores made a late appearance as the defending champions closed up shop to bag a huge three points. They made absolute certain in the 93rd minute when the two substitutes combined, with Kelly left an easy task to finish past Kearns.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Daniel Tobin, Josh Collins, Liam Scales, Paul Doyle; Gary O’Neill, Timmy Molloy; Seán McDonald (Jason McClelland 69), Conor Davis (Richie O’Farrell 80), Neil Farrugia; Yoyo Mahdy
Subs not used: Gavin Sheridan (gk), Evan Farrell, Darragh Corcoran, Mark Dignam, Kevin Coffey
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Seán Gannon, Brian Gartland, Seán Hoare, Dean Jarvis; Chris Shields, Patrick McEleney (John Mountney 75); Daniel Kelly (Jordan Flores 87), Jamie McGrath, Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly 80)
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (gk), Dane Massey, Daniel Cleary, Joe McKee
Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo)
Attendance: 1,176 (official)