University College Dublin (UCD) drew 0-0 with Cork City at Belfield on Friday night. This was the first time the sides have met in nearly two years with the Cork coming off stronger in a 1-0 victory during their 2019 Premier Division campaign.

The tie offered first starts of the season for Carl Williams and Danu Kinsella-Bishop as they came in for mainstays Lorcan Healy and Liam Kerrigan who are part of a now significant number of absentees from the UCD starting XI from the opening day.

Cork City were relegated from the top flight last season and have struggled in the First Division thus far sitting eight in the table before kick off tonight, a major fall from grace from the 2017 double winning season under John Caulfield.

The game began at a fast pace with the two teams causing each other problems in the opening 10 minutes without really creating any clear cut chances. It was clear neither side were willing to allow the opposition to find their rhythm and the referee Oliver Moran was a busy man as fouls were persistent by the two sets of players in the early period of the match. Similar to Treaty United in last week’s fixture, Cork had the asset of a long throw-in through left wing back Cian Bargary.

Harvey O’Brien did exceptionally well on 13 minutes as his block stopped what appeared to be a certain goal for the visitors. Jack Walsh leaped above Carl Williams in the UCD net and was unfortunate not to score from the header which rebounded off the post and fell to Cian Murphy in prime position. O’Brien reacted quickly and hurled his body in front of the empty goal to deflect the shot out for a corner.

Chances remained to be scarce for the best part of the first half; the closest UCD looked to scoring was a quarter of an hour in when Whelan skipped by three Cork defenders to fashion a shot on goal, but he uncharacteristically scuffed the shot well wide of the target on his weaker left foot. UCD were finding their mojo as the half drew to a close as they were beginning to find willing runners in behind the Cork defence. This nearly paid dividends when O’Brien’s long pass made it to Paul Doyle who set Whelan just inside the visitor’s box. This time the striker struck the ball cleanly, but it just sailed over Mark McNulty’s bar.

Bray Shot on UCD goal
UCD’s Carl Williams stops a shot from inside the UCD box, with the support of Micheal McHugh. Photo: Stephen Kisbey-Green

Carl Williams pulled off a top quality save on the stroke of half time to deny Bargary from opening the scoring after the wing back cut in from the left and shot with venom his right foot. Williams had the opposite of what Gary Neville would call ‘poppadom hands’ and his strong wrist ensured the score stayed level going into the interval.

The College also came close to breaking the deadlock before the break when Eoin Farrell’s good work down the right created an opportunity for Doyle to have a strike at goal. The shot deflected and chaos ensued in the penalty box as the ball could have ended up anywhere. Eventually Cian Coleman made a decisive block to Whelan’s effort to prevent the goal.

In the first minutes of the second 45, Evan Weir cut through the Cork midfield with a pass into Whelan who received it on the half turn. It was obvious there was only one thought in his mind and that was to go for goal. He tested McNulty from distance who did well to divert the ball away for a UCD corner.

Williams failed to deal with a Cork corner as he fumbled the ball out to Cian Murphy. However, the ‘keeper instantly redeemed himself for the mistake with a save from Murphy’s header.

The Students really missed the industry and threat of Kerrigan in the final third. Kinsella-Bishop had struggled to fill the large boots of Kerrigan, and as a sign of Andy Myler’s frustrations, who usually waits until the latter stages of games to make changes, Kinsella-Bishop was substituted for Adam Lennon five minutes before the hour mark.

Neither team were able to generate any real momentum in the second half. UCD had the greater share of possession, but could not convert this into opportunities to test McNulty in the Cork goal. It was Evan Weir who looked the most likely to create a goal for the Students from left centre back as his pinpoint delivery will always act as a threat for opposition defences.

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It was the free scoring Students’ second goalless draw at the Bowl this season and give Shelbourne the opportunity to go first in the league as they play away to Cobh Ramblers tonight, before the two sides meet at Tolka Park next week in a top of the table which promises to be an entertaining spectacle.

UCD: Carl Williams; Eoin Farrell (Adam Farrell 79’) , Harvey O’Brien, Sam Todd (c), Evan Weir, Mark Dignam (Ciaran Brennan 86’), Dara Keane, Sean Brennan, Paul Doyle (Donal Higgins 86’) , Colm Whelan, Danu Kinsella-Bishop (Adam Lennon 54’).

Cork City: Mark McNulty; Jonas Hakkinen, Ronan Hurley, Gordon Walker; Darragh Crowley, Cian Coleman (c), Alec Byrne (Gearoid Morrissey 43’), Jack Baxter , Cian Bargary, Cian Murphy (Dylan McGalde 75’), Jack Walsh (Beineon O’Brien 58’).

Callum Buchan – Sports Writer