Finn Harps flunked their test at UCD tonight as a trio of second-half goals saw the Students put the Donegal side to the bottom of the pile in the Premier Division.
UCD 3 Finn Harps 0
By Chris McNulty at The UCD Bowl. Pictures by Joe Boland, North West Newspix
A brace from Richie O’Farrell, after Timmy Molloy bagged the opener, gave UCD a win that was every inch as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
It was a night to forget for Harps and the only saving grace was that the ordeal wasn’t greater for the traveling fans, who watched in disbelief as their side was outthought and outplayed.
UCD, after dominating until then, finally hit the front in the 61st minute when Molloy tucked home the rebound after Harps ‘keeper Ciaran Gallagher did well to save from Yoho Mehdy’s tester.
With Harps still reeling, UCD doubled the advantage ten minutes later, Gary O’Neill threading through for O’Farrell, who finished across Gallagher to the bottom corner.
Harps had been on thin ice for long spells and O’Neill almost broke the deadlock, but his stinging 30-yard free kick, seven minutes after the re-start careered off the top of the Harps crossbar.
After Gallagher saved from Mark Dignam, UCD twisted the dagger further as O’Farrell curled home his second after his initial attempt was blocked down.
Harps are without a league win on the Belfield campus in 25 years and they were fortunate not to have been behind in the early exchanges as UCD set the tone.
UCD might have been in front by the time the second minute arrived. Mahdy beat Keith Cowan in an aerial jostle, sending Kevin Coffey racing clear. With Gallagher advancing, Coffey prodded wide when he ought to have hit the target.
Mahdy was the provider again, this time for O’Farrell, but his swerving hit was turned away by Gallagher.
The lively O’Farrell turned on a sixpence to get around Cowan and beat Gallagher from 20 yards, but his delicate effort came off the outside of the post.
UCD captain O’Neill rose his shot too high to trouble Gallagher as the Students threatened, with Harps restricted to attempts by Raffaele Cretaro and Caolan McAleer, both too high to work Conor Kearns, the UCD ‘keeper.
Bar a pair of 1-0 wins, in a 2015 play-off semi-final and a 1998 FAI Cup quarter-finals, Harps were without success in D4 since ’94 – when the two sides were vying for promotion from the First Division.
UCD boss Collie O’Neill kept faith with the 11 who started last week’s 1-0 loss to Sligo, a game in which the Students had the better of large swathes.
Still without Evan Osam, Paul Doyle and Conor Davis, O’Neill was able to name Neil Farrugia – called up this week to the Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad – among his substitutes.
Just before the break, Gallagher came to Harps’ rescue again, turning away from a deflected Coffey drive, while Daniel Tobin poked over from close range as the visitors survived a series of corners at the end of the first half.
Harps scored three at home to Cork City last Friday, but still fell to an agonising 4-3 loss as the harsh realities of life in the top tier came home to roost.
John Kavanagh, unable to play against Cork, the club from which he is on loan to Harps, was restored in place of Colm Deasy as Horgan’s selection showed just one switch.
Gallagher’s fingertips saved the day in the first minute of the second half, Harps fortunate that Mahdy took the sting from O’Neill’s powerful shot, with the ‘keeper clawing behind.
Aside from taking a McAleer shot in the midriff in the early moments of the second half, Harps failed to threaten and it’s back to the drawing board ahead of the visit of Shamrock Rovers to Ballybofey next Friday.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Daniel Tobin, Josh Collins, Liam Scales, Mark Dignam; Kevin Coffey (Neil Farrugia 76), Timmy Molloy, Gary O’Neill, Jason McClelland; Richie O’Farrell, Yoyo Mahdy (Sean McDonald 86).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Jacob Borg (Mikey Place 83), Keith Cowan, Sam Todd; John Kavanagh, Harry Ascroft, Mark Coyle (Nathan Boyle 65), Raffaele Cretaro (Tony McNamee 71), Daniel O’Reilly; Caolan McAleer; Sean Boyd.
Referee: Robert Harvey.