On a misty, humid Monday night, UCD AFC hosted Athlone Town in the UCD bowl in a heated encounter. Both teams took a knee before kickoff, to show solidarity in the fight against racism in sport. The hosts would earn a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Athlone, after both teams saw red in the wet conditions.

Early on, Athlone tested The Students, with Ronan Manning’s free kick striking the woodwork in the third minute. UCD didn’t hesitate in responding, minutes later Yoyo Mahdy went through on goal, but the Athlone keeper did well to push his effort wide for a corner. The game saw its first booking ten minutes on, with Lee Duffy going into the referee’s book.

The opening minutes were end to end, with both teams trading corners and shots. Joel Coustrain came the closest, shooting just wide. However, on the 19 minute mark, Lee Duffy capitalised on a mix up in the UCD defence, picking up a loose ball and sending it into the net; first blood to Athlone Town.

UCD vs Athlone Dribble
UCD dribbling against Athlone Town on Monday 17 August. Photo: Stephen Kisbey-Green

UCD’s response saw Colm Whelan put through from a resulting free kick from deep in their own half, however, he dragged it too wide of the oncoming goalkeeper and fluffed his shot across the goal. UCD were beginning to impose themselves on the game and stopped playing out from the back.

Athlone’s David Brookes went into the book just before half time, after a tough challenge on Whelan. The game began to heat up at this point, with Michael Gallagher going in on Athlone goal scorer Duffy with a studs- up challenge, straight red for the UCD centre-back on 40 minutes.

On the stroke of half time, UCD were awarded a penalty, after a loose ball resulted in a foul. Mahdy rifled the ball into the bottom left corner, levelling the score at the break.

UCD made a change at half-time with Josh Collins replacing Luke Boore. Athlone continued to press in the opening minutes of the second half, as UCD were the slower out of the blocks, with the rain and fog heavy under the floodlights.

On 56 minutes, Athlone’s Tumelo Tiou lost possession on the edge of his box, with Whelan taking the ball and squaring it to Mahdy. His strike just wide, showing that UCD were not going to surrender to Athlone’s early second half pressure. The Students switched Whelan for Dara Keane, while Athlone switched goal scorer Duffy for Dean George.

Tiou was subbed on the 61st minute for Danu Kinsella Bishop. With 30 minutes left, the game was evenly poised. Adam Lennon came on as Athlones’ second substitute.

UCD gained a string of corners and Dean George almost ended up putting the ball in his own net, with a headed clearance clipping Athlone’s cross bar. Moments later, A poor goal kick was capitalised on by Whelan, squaring it to Mahdy who calmly finished from ten yards out to make it 2-1 to a ten-men UCD on 72 minutes. Goal scorer Mahdy came off for Eoin Farrell, while Henry McEvoy replaced Evan Weir for Athlone.

There was controversy in the final five minutes, as Students’ captain Jack Keaney was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Athlone centre back Scott Delaney. After an exchange of words between the referee and Ciaran Grogan, the Athlone man was shown a second yellow for dissent.

No real chances came in the dying minutes for either team and the game finished 2-1, UCD with nine men on the field and Athlone with ten.

After the match, Keaney was impressed with his side’s comeback and spirit.

“It was a tough match, especially going behind early on. But Yoyo stepped up to the plate and we’re feeling a lot more confident. Despite losing to Bray I felt there were a lot of positives to build on and we showed our improvement from that game,” said Keaney.

He did, however, begrudge his side’s discipline late in the game. “In terms of the cards shown it was tough, I’m just saying a few prayers and hoping its one game and not three games (for a ban). With the Athlone red card, I didn’t see the incident. I’m definitely feeling a bit disappointed.”

Looking ahead to their next fixture away, Keaney believes, “there wouldn’t be a better time to stop Cabinteely in their tracks. We’ve been feeling confident from our last couple games, and the victory tonight will boost us. Hopefully, we can derail their streak.”

Luke Murphy – Co-Editor