Report: UCD 0-2 Dundalk (Griffin 72, 90+4)
Two late goals from Mark Griffin on his first ever league start gave Dundalk a valuable three points as they defeated UCD 2-0 at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening. The Melbourne-born youngster had been denied what appeared a definite goal in the first half when his header came off the underside of the crossbar, as the dominant visitors somehow failed to lead at the break. The Students took heart from that and produced a much better performance in the second half, Nathan Murphy clearing a Ciarán Nangle shot off the line and Samir Belhout hitting the post. But Griffin then got on the scoresheet for certain, firing low to the net on 72 minutes before adding another deep in injury-time, tapping in from close range after Keith Ward’s free-kick came off the woodwork.
Dundalk made two changes to the side that lost to Shamrock Rovers in the Setanta Sports Cup final six days earlier as injured duo Stephen McDonnell and Jason Byrne were replaced by Dean Bennett and Griffin. And it was a very bright start by the visitors who bossed the opening exchanges. In the first effort, on five minutes, Mark Quigley shot narrowly wide before Griffin was almost in behind but he was penalised for a foul in the box. Moments later, a fine cross from captain Simon Madden was met by Quigley at the back post but he headed wide, with Ross Gaynor perhaps better positioned behind him. Bennett was then set free down the right but his low cross was blocked behind. On the ten-minute mark, the chances continued, when that resulting corner from Gaynor was put out for another one at the far side.
This time, Daniel Kearns took it, with his initial cross cleared at the front post before the ball came back out to the Belfast-born winger whose cross from the left to the back post was inches away from finding the head of Griffin. At the other end, Seán Russell curled a free-kick from the right of the box narrowly wide of the far top corner. Past the quarter-hour mark, Michael Hector sprayed a delightful pass out to Quigley on the left and he cut inside twice before seeing his shot blocked and the attack temporarily end as it was put out for a throw-in. From that, Kearns did well to cut inside from the by-line and his shot from a tight angle forced UCD ‘keeper Ger Barron to push away. Gaynor then rolled a free-kick from the right of the box to the unmarked Kearns, whose delivery to the back post just failed to find the head of Quigley.
Dundalk continued on the front foot and midway through the half, Griffin did well but he was stopped in his tracks, the ball falling to Greg Bolger 30-yards from goal but his shot was well wide of the target. On 34 minutes, Hector picked out Griffin inside the box and he did well, shooting goalwards from 15-yards but somehow Barron got down to make a fantastic one-handed save. Shortly after, Belhout tried his luck from distance but Peter Cherrie gathered, before, at the other end, Quigley’s bending 25-yard effort from the right just went wide of the top corner. A minute before the break, Dundalk could not have gone closer as Madden’s cross from the right was met by a powerful header from Griffin with Barron getting a hand to it, the ball coming back down off the underside of the crossbar. The linesman had a good look at it but no goal was given. In the last real chance of the half, Hector did brilliantly to deny Belhout on the edge of the box as he threatened to get through on Cherrie.
Within three minutes of the restart, Hector’s clearance fell only as far as Nangle whose shot was heading for the far top corner only for Murphy to produce a brilliant headed clearance off the line. On 54 minutes, Russell and a much livelier UCD threatened again and once more it was Murphy to the rescue as he blocked the shot en-route to goal, with Cherrie pouncing on the loose ball. Moments later, Colin Hawkins attacked a Bolger corner, with Barron getting down well to save, though a free-out was given in any case. Before the hour mark, Dean Marshall cut in from the left and fired goalwards, Cherrie pushing away. On 64 minutes, Paul Corry’s cross from the right was met by captain Michael Leahy in the six-yard box and he headed narrowly wide. Moments later, Gaynor did well to win possession from Seán Harding at the left corner flag and he found Quigley on the edge of the box but he wildly shot over.
On 67 minutes, Belhout found himself in behind the Dundalk defence and, under pressure from Hawkins, he got his shot away, past Cherrie only for it to come back off the post. Shortly after, Bolger sprayed a pass out to Kearns on the right wing and his cross to the back found Gaynor who shot wildly off target from a tight angle. Within seconds, however, Gaynor was the provider for the winner as his delivery from the left was fired low to the net by Griffin from 12-yards. UCD were visibly rocked by that goal and Dundalk were happy to hold possession, the visitors threatening at times, with Gaynor’s dangerous cross cleared before Quigley’s free-kick from just outside the box was blocked by the wall. On 89 minutes, UCD attacked with a pull-back fired over by Corry. And with the last kick of the game, substitute Ward hit a free-kick off the angle of crossbar and post, with Griffin tapping in from close range.
UCD AFC: Ger Barron, Seán Harding, David O’Connor (Tomás Boyle 67), Michael Leahy ©, Ciarán Nangle; Darren Meenan, Paul Corry, Paul O’Conor, Seán Russell (Robbie Benson 61); Samir Belhout (Stephen Doyle 78), Dean Marshall.
Booked: D Meenan (45), M Leahy (86).
Unused Subs: Daniel Ledwith, James Kavanagh, Mark McGinley, Danny Fallon.
DUNDALK FC: Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden ©, Colin Hawkins, Michael Hector, Nathan Murphy; Daniel Kearns, Greg Bolger, Dean Bennett (Keith Ward 63), Ross Gaynor; Mark Quigley, Mark Griffin.
Goals: M Griffin (72, 90+4).
Booked: D Kearns (45), S Madden (50).
Unused Subs: Paul Murphy (GK), Shane Guthrie, Johnny Breen, Chris Kerr, Philip Duffy.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork).