It was a warm evening in Belfield. Arriving nearly three hours before kick-off, it came as a surprise to see someone else beat me here. Sitting in the shade of the stand to avoid the heat a Frenchman called Rodriguez was hoping to get a word with Martin Russell. He looked about 24 or so, if he was younger he was certainly old enough to have a track record worth checking and more than likely he was older still. It’s not the first time a Footballer has turned up at a ground hoping to get a trial, UCD’s assistant manager Diarmuid McNally has seen hundreds over the years and none ever amounted to anything. After a short conversation between the two the Frenchman left, having revealed he’d never played professionally. McNally advised him to try another club.
Aberdeen were in the UCD Bowl for the first game in a three-match tour of Dublin. Malahide was next on the list on Thursday, concluding with Shelbourne on Saturday. A couple of UCD club volunteers mentioned the Dons had put in substantial requests for energy drinks and sandwiches to be available. They may not be used to slumming it in the League of Ireland but they’ll do well to top the cup of tea on offer in behind press row.
It took just 5 minutes for Josh Magennis on the end of a Niall McGinn cross from the left. Ger Barron in the UCD goal could have reacted sooner but the fault lay more with the defence. Michael Higgins, the long-time voice of Belfield initially got the scorer wrong before wisely asking Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes who scored. It should have been 2-0 just a couple of minutes later. Barry Robson toyed with Colin O’Brien on the left side of the box before crossing to Joe Shaughnessy but this time Barron was alert and put it out for a corner. Robson, most recently with Sheffield United and before that the Vancouver Whitecaps, looked like he had a point to prove early, showing far more industry on the wing than is normally reserved for friendlies. Another Magennis header forced a save from Barron and Johnny Hayes tried his luck from the rebound but the UCD keeper parried again. The tempo calmed but Magennis was still hungry. The powerful striker had a go on 33 minutes that was deflected before Hayes applied the finish to double the lead.
The second half began with a bang. Niall McGinn volleyed home from the edge of the area to put Aberdeen 3-0 up. Willo Flood was trying to be as busy as Robson but got bundled over inadvertently by referee Derek Tomney. The Students, who had only started three first team regulars, fought gamely but this collection of reserves and triallists looked well out of their depth. Ayman Ben Mohamed, a second half substitute, gave the Students their first real chance of the game on 53 minutes as he raced onto a loose ball in the box but his finish went wide. The Dons, with legitimate hopes of qualifying for Europe, wanted to put on a show for the few dozen travelling fans amongst the crowd of 278. With a little over 20 minutes to go both benches were emptied but the Dons kept pushing for a fourth.
UCD however were finally starting to look competent in attack. Jamie Langfield remained untested but there was at least some hope that the Aberdeen keeper would have more to do than bark instructions and accept the occasional back pass. Samir Belhout beat the defence but the backspin on the through ball meant his volley went back and over his head. On the counter Gregg Wylde forced a save from sub goalkeeper Conor O’Donnell but it was hardly the barrage of the first half. There were no renditions of Stand Free from the crowd. Amongst the idle chatter the only distinct cry was one of ‘Barry’ for UCD’s McCabe from the ball boys and then a collective groan from all as Peter Pawlett slipped on the ball in the Students’ box around 10 minutes from time. McGinn caught O’Donnell off his line late on but his clever effort from the left of the box went wide.
Balls over Belhout’s head became UCD’s only form of attack as the game wore on. Two years ago on this same ground, he ran World Cup winner Joan Capdevila into the ground but he couldn’t escape the attentions of Mark Reynolds on this night. Aberdeen’s fourth finally came on 88 minutes. Scott Vernon calmly passed to Pawlett and, with O’Donnell out of position, he slotted home. Belhout had one last chance off a through ball in injury time. He finally beat Reynolds but he couldn’t the ball to the end-line. Out, wide, end of the affair. Well not quite, Barron made sure to get a photo with Leighton after the game.
Check out our photos from the game here.
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