UCFL squad prior to their opening game against Kilkenny in Evergreen Park on Saturday night
04/11/2019: Kilkenny League 3-0 UCFL

Despite a very competitive showing, particularly in the first half, the UCFL’s challenge in their opening 2019/20 Oscar Traynor game was derailed by two rather soft goals conceded around the hour mark and they fell to an ultimately disappointing 0-3 defeat to a strong Kilkenny & District League team in Kilkenny on Saturday evening.

The heavy rain which had been falling in both Dublin and Kilkenny eased before kick-off, making conditions a little easier for the teams as the game went ahead on Evergreen FC’s artificial pitch just outside Kilkenny.

Although they had to survive an early scare when a cross caused alarm in their 6-yard box, the UCFL were soon into their stride with Kilkenny happy to thwart a first attack for the concession of a corner after 5 minutes. Kilkenny somehow escaped again barely a minute later when a dangerous cross eluded Ayuba Salaudeen before reaching Gavin Murphy whose shot from 6 yards hit the inside of the post and appeared to cross the line before being scooped back out by Michael Walsh in the Kilkenny goal. Unfortunately for the UCFL, the referee and his assistant both appeared to be unsighted and signalled to play on.

The UCFL continued to press forward with Salaudeen particularly impressive, his turn and shot in the next attack less than a minute later from the edge of the area being tipped over by Walsh for a corner. Salaudeen produced a similar effort shortly afterwards, his shot this time drifting wide.

Kilkenny were struggling to impose themselves on the game, but they did manage to produce a couple of half chances, with Jaime Owen shooting just wide after working an opening, then UCFL keeper Davy Frewen got down sharply to thwart another effort.

But the UCFL continued to threaten and Kilkenny had to rely on another agile save from their keeper on 31 minutes. This time, Andy Hedderman’s inswinging corner from the left caused havoc in the Kilkenny defence; Niall Andrews appeared to lose track of the ball in the floodlights, and could only direct his header towards his own net, requiring an outstanding save from his keeper to prevent the UCFL going ahead.

Kilkenny had a couple of chances before halftime, with Frewen getting down well to hold a shot from Declan McQuillan after a move involving some impressive sharp passing,and Dylan Kelly headed off the line after a corner. In between these efforts, the UCFL still managed to threaten, with Ross Byrne’s shot on the break being parried by Walsh before being cleared to safety.

The UCFL resumed their search for the lead goal at the start of the second half, with Ross Byrne’s deflected shot dipping just over the crossbar, then Ray Jaudzems’ fine effort hit the side netting.

Despite the UCFL’s growing confidence, it was Kilkenny who made the vital breakthrough shortly afterwards. After Frewen had made a good stop to thwart a sweeping move, Kilkenny quickly attacked again and this time Frewen did well to push a shot from the edge of the area over off the top of the crossbar. It is often said that defensive corners are not a good time for making substitutions, but unfortunately for the UCFL, full back Peter O’Brien had been injured in the build up to the corner and the delay and disruption of the substitution was unavoidable. Certainly, when play resumed, the previously well-organised defence did appear to momentarily switch-off swung in and Jaime Owen got free in the 6 yard box to turn the corner in as Frewen scrambled in vain to close him down.

Despite this setback, the UCFL were still well in the game and very nearly equalised just a couple of minutes later on the hour mark when Ayuba Salaudeen cut in from the left, beat 3 defenders and looked certain to score but, anticipating the danger superbly, the Kilkenny keeper cut down the space and managed to block away Salaudeen’s effort. From this block, Kilkenny quickly launched a counter attack which appeared to have petered out as the ball ran through to Frewen but unfortunately, attempt to take the ball around the lone Kilkenny attacker proved ill-advised as he lost possession, allowing the attacker to run the ball into the empty net.

There was to be no way back for the UCFL after that, with Kilkenny now able to play with greater confidence, changing their formation to protect their lead and forcing the UCFL to chase goals. Kilkenny exploited the situation, Jaime Owen again firing home from inside the area for 3-0 on 68 minutes and Frewen had to be alert to prevent what would have been a very undeserved fourth on a couple of occasions before the end, notably a one-on-one stop on 72 minutes.

The UCFL’s efforts continued to the end, creating a number of half chances in the final 20 minutes, but they were completely out of luck. The closest they came to a goal was probably Conor Blaine’s shot which struck the side netting with 15 minutes left.

UCFL manager Paul Hutchinson and his assistant David Spring were obviously very disappointed with how events transpired, but the UCFL were not outclassed by a powerful Kilkenny side who will undoubtedly be among the favourites for this competition. They remain very optimistic that the UCFL team can win against Kildare and still make the knockout stags of the competition.

We hope to post a follow-up article later in the week reflecting some post-match views from the team and management and looking ahead to the Kildare game.

UCFL – David Frewen (VEC FC), Peter O’Brien (VEC FC), Sean Murphy (South William Street Celtic), Wayne Sanderson (Castle Celtic), Gavin Murphy (C) (VEC FC), Neil Love (South William Street Celtic), Ray Jaudzems (VEC FC), Ayuba Salaudeen (Castle Celtic), Andy Hedderman (Glasnaion FC), Ross Byrne (Arthur Griffith Park FC), Dylan Kelly (Tallaght Utd). Subs – Luke Brown (Coolock Village) for O’Brien, 55mins; Robert Baxter (Tallaght Utd) for Sanderson, 58mins; Conor Blaine (Coolock Village) for S. Murphy, 66 mins; Liam Kennedy (Castle Celtic) for Hedderman, 79 mins; Conor McGreal (Castle Celtic) for Kelly, 83 mins.

Kilkenny League – Michael Walsh, Henry O’Neill, Joe Banville, Niall Andrews (C ), David Rice, Robert Skehan, Declan McQuillan, Peter Higgns, Sean Barcoe, Jaime Owen, Andrew Walsh. Subs - Eoin Wall, Neil O’Meara, Tommy Earls, James Ryan, Dean Brooders, Sam Hickey, Rory Monks.

03/11/2019 23:41