University College Dublin came out the strongest in a 3-2 cracker at Belfield against newly formed club Treaty United to go top of the SSE Airtricity First Division table.

Limerick became known as Treaty County after the peace agreement between Williamite and Jacobite forces was signed in the county in 1691. William of Orange came out victorious in the infamous Battle of the Boyne during the war, but it was the boys in blue who were winners of the Battle of the Bowl. It remains to be seen whether people will celebrate this victory by marching in 300+ years time.

Before kickoff, both sides paid their respectives for the recently deceased ex Shelbourne player Alan Keely and Irish international Alan McLoughlan who’s goal in 1993 qualified the nation for the World Cup in the USA.

Treaty began the game on the frontfoot with the first chance of the half falling to their skipper Jack Lynch after a Rory Delap esque throw-in from full back Marc Ludden, however Lorcan Healy pulled off a good save to deny the opening goal for the visitors. On the 10 minute mark, Treaty were awarded a penalty after striker Kieron Hanlon was brought down by UCD’s Harvey O’Brien in the box, Sean McSweeney made no mistake from twelve yards as he sent Healy the wrong way.

Not many sides in the division can deal with the Students’ high intensity press when out of possession, but the Limerick phoenix club were proving a tough test for Andy Myler’s team to lay a glove on in the opening 15 minutes. UCD came closest to levelling the score through the in-form Colm Whelan, who is fresh from consecutive hat-tricks in his previous two matches, after a cross from Mark Dignam found the prolific goalscorer who’s deft touch was expected to be followed by  a finish past Tadgh Ryan, however, the ball sailed just over the crossbar.

UCD AFC Students Corner Header
UCD AFC’s Sam Todd clears the ball out of his side’s box after a corner kick from St Patrick’s Athletic. Photo: Stephen Kisbey-Green

It was obvious that this Treaty side were one of the best sides faced by the College thus far in the campaign They had the physical edge in terms of duals and aerial battles on the Students which is to be expected with an older team, but were also extremely comfortable in possession of the ball and manager Tommy Barrett has them well drilled using Marc Ludden’s Delap-esque throw-in to full advantage as they set up as if it was a corner when the full back had the ball in his hands in the opposition half.

Ten minutes before the interval the away team doubled their lead through a spectacular 35 yards chip from Hanlon. He intercepted a loose pass from Sam Todd and spotted Healy in no man’s land. As the ‘keeper scrambled back onto his line, there was no room for error in Hanlon’s effort and, similar to Eric Cantona in 1996, his execution was flawless (although the celebration didn’t mirror the cool and composed nature of the Frenchman’s!).

There were signs of frustration by UCD at the way the half was panning out as playmaker Paul Doyle began to drop deeper and deeper in order to get a foot on the ball and some indiscipline had creeped into the Students as Evan Weir was lucky to get away with just a yellow card after lunging in high and late on Edward McCarthy. Despite the vexation of the poor performance, the College managed to pull one back on the stroke of half time when Sean Brennan was played in on the right wing by Eoin Farrell and squared it across the box to find the on-running Daire Keane who finished past Ryan.

Andy Myler’s half time talk appeared to work wonders for his young side as the second half performance was unrecognisable to the laboured performance in the opening 45. It only took the Students six minutes to make matters level after Brennan added to his assist in the first half with a goal. Whelan and Liam Kerrigan linked up well to find the midfielder who smashed home into Ryan’s right corner. UCD built on the momentum from the goal and took the lead minutes later when the ball fell to unlikely candidate Harvey O’Brien in the box and the defender kept his composure to slot the ball underneath the goalkeeper.

After the goals the College found their best form as the front three of Doyle, Whelan and Kerrigan were causing havoc in the final third with Brennan continuing to control the game from deep. Treaty were not willing to go down without a fight and both sides showed real tenacity in their tackles, willing to leave the boot in on an opponent.

As the game grew on the visitors were firmly on the back foot as a brand new team it is no surprise that they lacked cohesion for a full 90 minutes in comparison with a UCD team with only two new signings in the starting XI. As Treaty were soaking the pressure, Whelan found himself through with only the goalkeeper to beat on the edge of the penalty area. He opted to knock the ball around Ryan who took out the striker, conceding a free kick. It was almost deja vu for the College with calls for the ‘keeper to be sent for an early bath, as last week’s fixture against Wexford saw two red cards for the opposition goalkeepers, however referee David Keeler decided to caution Ryan with a yellow card.

In the dying embers of the game, Treaty had to throw the kitchen sink at it in the hope of finding an equaliser, but the UCD defence stood strong against the barrage led by captain on the day Sam Todd who had numerous key blocks and headed clearances throughout the tie.

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Sinatra over soundcloud for Myler

Andy Myler was impressed the character his side showed in the second half. “I wasn’t not too happy with the first half but delighted with the second half performance and got what we deserved for the second half performance,” he said after the match.

The fitness levels of the Students was apparent towards the end of the game and Myler says it is one of his priorities not to be outworked by any teams “It’s (fitness) something we focus on. We have a fantastic strength and conditioning coach Maria Monahan from the high performance unit here in UCD and who has our lads in fantastic condition.” Myler added.

Strike partnerships are a dying breed in football, but Liam Kerrigan and Colm Whelan are proving they can still be used to great effect in a progressive side. “Colm and Liam link  up well together, and have that little bit of understanding with each other. We love playing with the two up front, we think it gives us a bit of difference to other sides,” the manager sung their praises in the post match interview. When asked whether the house music being played in the dressing room immediately after the final whistle was from his playlist, Myler insisted “That is as far away from my playlist as as you could get, if you ever hear Frank Sinatra in the dressing room you’ll know it’s mine!”.

Callum Buchan – Sports Writer