Posted 02 November 2009
UCD AFC First Division Champions 2009
UCD have been crowned the FAI First Division League champions after a sensational 5-0 away win over Athlone. The victory secures the League title for UCD and automatic promotion with a game in hand. The other title contenders Shelbourne lost 5-4 at home to Longford Town.
“We are delighted to have secured the League victory and promotion to the Premier Division next season,” said Diarmuid McNally, UCD’s Assistant Manager. “Although disappointed to have been relegated last season, it gave us an opportunity to review our structure and work on the development of our players.”
“Our manager Martin Russell has instilled confidence and belief in the players who really applied themselves this season. The scholarship programme has been instrumental in our success with scholars forming the backbone of this team and it is therefore fitting that on the tenth anniversary of Dr. Tony O’Neills death, the team has been promoted and a scholarship Trust has been established in his name”.
The First Division trophy will be presented in the UCD Bowl at the Waterford game on Saturday, 07 November, with celebrations in the Montrose afterwards.
UCD - Barron; Harding, Nangle, Boyle (Leahy 75), E McMillan; Corry, Reilly (Ward 78), Finn, Mulhall, Creevy (McMahon 55); D McMillan. Subs not used - Bolger, Brennan.
During the match on 30 October, both UCD and Athlone struggled to keep their feet at times as the week’s rain took its toll on the pitch. The conditions also contributed to a slow start and by the time Shelbourne and Longford kicked off - 15 minutes after UCD and Athlone – there had only been one real chance, with UCD sending a header just over from a corner. UCD’s Sean Harding sent a free narrowly wide at pretty much the same time as Longford were taking a sensational lead in Tolka Park - a result which was too much to hope for at the outset of the evening, but which was now on; if the Town could hold on and UCD sneak a win, the title would be decided there and then.
On 35 minutes came the vital breakthrough goal in Athlone - a well-worked move ended with Dave McMillan tripping on the edge of the box, and Sean Harding's free left Barry Andrews motionless in the Athlone goal. When, two minutes later, Longford went 2-0 up courtesy of a penalty from former UCD player Adrian Murphy, there was a sense that it was going to be UCD’s night. But it was still far from easy, and while UCD were the better side, Athlone looked dangerous on the counter.
However, UCD defended well. Robbie Creevy came closest to making it 2-0 when sending a shot on the turn inches wide. That was the last action of the half, but curiously, half-time was to prove more eventful. In the packed Athlone Town club shop, a shout went up - 3-0 Longford! Surely this was all over? Not a chance, as Shelbourne scored twice during the UCD / Athlone half-time to go in at the break 3-2 down and with the bit well and truly between their teeth.
UCD were still struggling to make significant inroads, though - Dave McMillan was first to test former Student Barry Andrews with a shot from a tight angle on 54 minutes, which was flapped away for a corner. Two minutes later, however, came a suitably remarkable twist on a remarkable night. Dave McMillan challenged Andrews for a 50/50 ball, which the keeper claimed. Words were exchanged, and it appeared a straightforward incident until Andrews inexplicably stuck his elbow into McMillan's face; a red card and, with the ball in play, a penalty. Ronan Finn made no mistake - his sixth successful kick from six this season - and suddenly the game was over as a contest.
Athlone had one excellent chance when a quick counter culminated in a shot narrowly wide, but UCD were more clinical on 63 minutes - Harding blocked an Athlone clearance and sent Ronan Finn free down the right, and his low cross was thumped home on the near post by Dave McMillan. It was 4-0 two minutes later as UCD threatened to run riot - a clearance came out only as far as Paul Corry, and he sent a left-footed effort into the bottom right corner from 20 yards out. It was arguably the pick of the goals on the night, but the fifth ten minutes later rivaled it. UCD substitute Keith Ward harried Athlone into a mistake before running across the edge of the box to free fellow sub Pete McMahon on the overlap on the left, and McMahon tucked home first time to cap a lovely flowing move as UCD equaled their record senior away win for the second time in a month.
All ears now turned to Tolka. Two minutes later came the amazing news - Longford had gone 4-2 up, with Derek Glynn completing a hat-trick. And as at half-time, it was the period when UCD weren't playing which was to be the most hectic - first Shelbourne pulled back to 4-3, then Town made it 5-3 before Shelbourne had a player sent off and pulled back to 5-4 before finally, word came through of the final whistle. UCD were champions.