Defence Forces 2-1 UCFL
20/12/2018 - Oscar Traynor campaign ends with defeat to group winners

The UCFL concluded their 2018-19 Oscar Traynor campaign with a 1-2 defeat to the Defence Forces on Wednesday (19/12/2018) night.

Despite the defeat, the UCFL team produced a fine performance against the best team in a difficult group on the Crumlin Utd astroturf, competing well throughout the game, with a number of players particularly prominent. Mick Kinsella, who missed the Carlow game through suspension and Dani Gonzalez were both outstanding in midfield, while Aidan Hyland’s return made a big difference upfront.

Despite a bright and fast-paced start, there were few chances in the opening 20 minutes, with attacking moves breaking down for both sides. However, that changed when the Defence Forces’ Jody Dillon slipped his marker on 18 minutes before attempting to round Austin Hannon, but the UCFL goalkeeper got down quickly to thwart the danger.

The UCFL responded with a couple of efforts themselves, first Aidan Hyland’s header was palmed away by Gavin Mulreaney and then, after a fine run down the left by Ray Jaudzems, it was Hyland again, shooting just wide at the far post though he was ruled offside.

Approaching the half-hour mark, the Defence Forces appeared to be taking control, going close three times in quick succession, first Derek Connolly shooting just wide, Raymond McCann doing likewise after a mistake in the UCFL defence and then a header rebounding from the crossbar before the ball was scrambled away by the UCFL defence.

However, the UCFL weathered that storm and responded with a few chances of their own, with Ray Jaudzems working an opening for a shot which was saved by Mulreaney, before the latter was forced to tip over a drive from Conor Blaine just a minute later.

With the clock reaching the 45 minute mark, the deadlock seemed set to be broken when Defence Forces midfielder Rickie Fox was tripped inside the box. However, Fox’s penalty was not particularly well struck and Hannon got down to his right and saved. And there was still time for the UCFL to threaten at the other end, Sam Jackson heading over a cross from Hyland.

After an encouraging first half, the UCFL began the second half in confident manner, pushing for a breakthrough and coming close on 50 minutes, a scrambled clearance falling at the feet of Dani Gonzalez, whose shot from the edge of the area was tipped round the base of the post by Mulreaney at full stretch.

However, it was the Defence Forces who made the breakthrough with 54 minutes gone. A throw-in from the left was nodded on by Dillon, Hannon was unable to hold onto it and Tony Smith was on hand to turn the ball in from two yards.

The UCFL quickly recovered and they drew level with a deserved equaliser on 66 minutes. There seemed little danger when a free kick was awarded 40 yards out and near the sideline, but Gonzalez’ fine free kick allowed Hyland to steal in behind the defence and guide a header low into the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner. This boosted the UCFL, and for the next few minutes, they began to press with increasing belief that they could grab an unexpected winner.

However, they were undone on 74 minutes by a poor clearance which allowed the Defence Forces a chance to attack and though Hannon did well to stop the initial shot, he had no chance with the follow-up from Dillon who pounced to restore the Defence Forces’ lead.

The UCFL wobbled again after this setback, Paul Sheehan sending a header glancing off Hannon’s crossbar just 3 minutes later, but the UCFL again recovered gradually and pressed for a second equaliser right to the end. They had a great chance 3 minutes into injury time but Sam Jackson’s shot was deflected just past the post and with that, the UCFL’s last chance had gone.

And so another Oscar Traynor campaign for the UCFL team ends without a win, but there is no doubt that the performances represented an improvement after a difficult couple of seasons which followed the loss of three of the four leading teams from the Premier Division in 2016. Apart from a slightly crazy 20-minute spell in the first half of this year’s opening game when 3 goals were conceded, the UCFL competed well in all 3 games against difficult opponents, the Leinster Senior League, last year’s winners Carlow and the Defence Forces, the latter themselves beating all 3 teams and topping the group. The UCFL team improved with each game and last night’s contest saw a fine game played at a notably high pace and standard throughout. The UCFL would like to thank the management team of Paul Hutchinson and David Spring, along with all the players and their clubs, for their efforts on behalf of the League and we trust that it has been a worthwhile experience for all involved.

UCFL: Austin Hannon (Clontarf Ath), Conor McGreal (Castle Celtic), Gavin Murphy (VEC FC), Peter O’Brien (VEC FC), Brian O’Regan (C) (Harding IF), Mick Kinsella (VEC FC), Ray Jaudzems (VEC FC), Dani Gonzalez (VEC FC), Sam Jackson (VEC FC), Aidan Hyland (VEC FC), Conor Blaine (Coolock Village). Subs – Pat Meghen (VEC FC) for Blaine (59 mins), Neal Breslin (VEC FC) for O’Brien (65 mins), Andy Hedderman (Glasnaion) for McGreal (75 mins), Eoin Sherlock (Swords Manor), Richie Hanniffy (VEC FC).

Defence Forces: Gavin Mulreaney, Ben O’Donoghue, Craig Doran, Sean Guerins, Richie Barber, Rickie Fox, Derek Connolly, Raymond McCann, Jody Dillon, Paul Sheehan, Tony Smith. Subs – Stephen Fisher, Michael Mulhall, John Paul Brennan, Frank Carolan, Stephen Whelan

28/03/2019 11:44