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A Ronan Finn masterclass maintained UCD’s perfect start to the season at Tolka Park, at the expense of a poor Shelbourne, however his three assists were just half the story. John Reilly twice, and David McMillan, profited from the midfielder’s exquisite passing, with Paddy Madden replying for the hosts in a bad blooded affair.
Shelbourne finished with nine men after David McGill was sent off for striking Chris Mulhall and David Cassidy was given his second yellow for a late challenge with twelve minutes remaining. Brian Shortall was then sent off for The Students for a second yellow in the dying moments to add to the crazy night.
UCD made a blistering start as the hosts struggled to string more than a couple of passes together in the opening fifteen minutes. John Reilly and Chris Mulhall piled forward at every opportunity to support the front two of David McMillan and Ciaran Kilduff and facing a playmaker of Ronan Finn’s standard, Shels could not cope.
The opener came just before the twentieth minute, and was down to a mistake at the back for Shels as they pushed out to play offside, high up the pitch. David Crawley was too slow to react to play and Finn’s first assist of the night queued up McMillan to run through on goal. Kevin Doherty could not keep up with the striker and a nice finish gave UCD a deserved lead.
Shelbourne began to enjoy a bit of possession after the goal, however, they failed to open up the visitors and as Shels pressed forward, Finn played a cute ball over the defence for Reilly to run on to. His shot took a deflection off a desperate lunge from David McGill which only helped it passed Dean Delaney after 26 minutes.
UCD continued to create chances before the break and another Ronan Finn ball, whipped across the face of goal, really should have been converted by Chris Mulhall. At the other end Shels were beginning to cause problems. Anto Flood was released behind the UCD defence and he blasted a fine finish past Gerrard Barron, however, the referee blew for an earlier foul by the Students, failing to see the obvious advantage that Shels’ should have been played. The crowd turned on the referee from then on. From the resulting free kick, Kevin Doherty headed just over in what was the first of three free headers he would win in the UCD penalty area throughout the game.
The second half started just as frantically, with the newly introduced Paddy Madden making an immediate impact for Shels. Ritchie Baker’s 46th minute free in the corner found its way past the box, Peter Hynes chased it down and crossed from the other side and Madden, who rose highest amongst a host of bodies, finished with an excellent header.
Seven minutes later and David Cassidy could have equalised. The impressive Damien Brennan won the ball from a corner and lined up Cassidy, but his effort, from an angle, went over. Two minutes later and Shels’ were down to ten. Baker went in hard on Shortall but before the referee could blow up, Mulhall and McGill went to ground battling for the free ball. As they hit the ground, McGill hit Mulhall. An easy red.
Yet Shels’ maintained their pressure and Flood was in on goal only moments later, but he hesitated and Shortall got back to win the ball. Straight down the other end and UCD made it three. Finn again the provider, Reilly again the finisher; a cracking effort from the corner of the box, giving Delaney no chance with twenty five minutes to go.
It was end to end stuff for the remaining minutes, with Doherty again winning free headers in the visitors’ box; however a comeback failed to materialise. David Cassidy’s second yellow for a late challenge with twelve minutes remaining halted any chance for the Reds, with UCD’s Shortall dismissed for a similar crime with only minutes remaining.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; Damien Brennan, Alan Keely, Kevin Doherty, David Crawley (Robbie Hedderman 32); Mark O’Brien (Paddy Madden 46), David McAllister (David McGill 11), David Cassidy, Richie Baker; Peter Hynes, Anto Flood.
Subs not used: Vinny Whelan, Derek Doyle.
Sent Off: McGill (55), Cassidy (78).
UCD: Ger Barron; Gareth Matthews (Mick Leahy 19), Shortall, Andy Boyle, Evan McMillan, Brian Shortall; John Reilly, Robbie Creevy, Ronan Finn, Chris Mulhall; Ciaran Kilduff (John Dineen 88), David McMillan (Peter McMahon 65).
Subs not used: Billy Brennan, Keith Ward.
Sent Off: Shortall (87)
Referee: Graham Kelly
Extratime Man of the Match: Ronan Finn (UCD)