Students escape drop after frenzied run-in in Senior 1

by Dave Donnelly

A 2-0 win over Dunboyne was enough to ensure UCD remain an LSL Sunday Senior 1 side for next season as one of the most competitive seasons on record came to a close.

UCD needed just a point to beat the drop but earned all three points thanks to goals from Sean Coyne and Gareth Coughlan.

Declan Sexton missed a penalty in the first half but two breakaway goals in the second half saw Diarmuid McNally’s side win out on the break.

Sean Byrne and Coughlan combined for the latter to tee up Coyne for a tidy finish five minutes after half time, and the same three combined as Coughlan sealed the win 20 minutes from time.

It brought to an end a helter skelter schedule that, just a few weeks earlier, had the Students in with a reasonable shout of promotion back to the top level.

UCD finished two points clear of the drop but just eight points behind promoted side Ballymun United, while Tolka Rovers went down with an unusually high points tally of 33 points.

“That league table was tight – probably the most competitive league I’ve ever been involved in,” McNally told the Dublin Gazette.

“There was very little difference between third from top and third from bottom. There was a rake of seven or eight teams who could easily have got promoted or gone down.

“We were one of a number of teams to get sucked in, but I’m relieved to get over the line. We had an outside chance of getting promoted towards the end of the season.

“We went on a seven-game unbeaten run, but the turning point was losing that game to Swords and we went on a bad run.

“You’ll rarely see a league table like that – the points for going up was very low and the points for going down was high.”

McNally expects to keep the bulk of his side together for another promotion challenge next season, with striker Declan Sexton the only confirmed departure.

His role as a development coach means players will look to make the move up to the club’s League of Ireland side, with Sean Byrne and Gareth Coughlan having been involved at that level before.

The Saturday side ran away with the Major 1 title and some of those players will look to step up to Sunday football, as will the Under-19 National League side.

“We might put one or two up to the first team and if they do well they might stay there.

“It’s a very young team we have at the moment so a good group of them will go next year.”

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