Sport Soccer

Friday 24 May 2019

Students unlikely to halt Saints' march

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

UCD will have to tear up the form book if they are to inject life back into the League of Ireland title race tonight and prove Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny wrong in the process.

There was a whiff of mind games about Kenny's assertion earlier this week that the Students have a 'fear factor' when they take on league leaders St Patrick's Athletic who visit the Belfield Bowl.

Kenny's Dundalk are three points behind the Saints with a game more played.

It effectively means that victory for Liam Buckley's charges tonight will leave them needing just one win from their final three games to claim the league title as they are 15 goals better off than the Louthmen in the goal difference department.

St Patrick's Athletic have already beaten UCD three times this term, including a 5-0 win at Richmond Park.

Kenny suggested that Martin Russell's side "almost lie down when they play them. Everything seems so friendly there. They nearly accept defeat before they go into the games judging by the convincing margins during the matches".

Russell has neglected opportunities to respond, stressing that his team still have a relegation battle to fight, although they are in a strong position with a five-point gap back to the bottom two, Bray and Shelbourne.

The UCD manager does believe that the Inchicore men would be deserving winners of the title if they get across the line.

"St Pat's have proven to be worthy champions in waiting, with their style of play," said Russell. "We have picked up a number of injuries from the game in Cork (last Friday). However, we will be out to do our best to prove our own players' credentials and further their progression by staying in the top tier."

CRUCIAL

For the Saints, it is a nervy time. They overcame a similar assignment in Bray last week although there were some shaky moments in the second half with Buckley feeling that tiredness from the preceding crucial win over Dundalk was a factor in their struggles.

Centre-half Kenny Browne was suspended and admitted it made for harrowing viewing at times.

"It was probably as nervous as I ever was for a game since I've been at the club as I was watching in the stand," said the big defender, who knows it's a squad game at the moment with key men Killian Brennan and Daryl Kavanagh sitting this one out with suspension.

"Everyone is chipping in at present," said Browne.

"UCD will go out and play football and they never play for a draw either so it's really up to us. We know what we have to do so we're just excited to go out there and do it."

With the FAI Cup semi-finals taking place on Sunday, the only other league game tonight is the refixed meeting of Derry City and Shelbourne.

The Reds moved off the bottom on goal difference with a draw against Drogheda earlier this week. With trips to Cork and Limerick to come before the visit of UCD on the final day, John McDonnell's men have to show resolution on their travels if they are to avoid the drop.

Irish Independent

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