UCD will look to exorcise the ghosts of last weekend’s 5-1 humbling to promotion rivals Longford Town when they face Shelbourne at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening (kick-off 7.45pm).
Prior to last weekend’s shock defeat at home to Longford, Collie O’Neill’s high-flying Students were riding the crest of a three-game winning run with big wins against Cobh Ramblers, Drogheda United and Finn Harps.
With nine games left, O’Neill and his backroom team will be hoping that they can still make this season a year to remember and return to the Premier Division.
However, they will have to face a major obstacle in achieving this aim following the departure of top goalscorer Georgie Kelly to Dundalk.
The news of Kelly’s departure will have been a blow for all concerned with UCD, but they have plenty of other capable replacements to fill the Donegal man’s large void.
While there will be plenty of spotlight on the man who will replace the position vacated by Kelly, it is expected that youngster Yoyo Mahdy will be called upon to replicate the heroics of the new Dundalk hitman.
Mahdy, 20, has mainly featured as a substitute so far this season with only four starts to his name so far this season.
In his four starts, the Galway native has scored three times for the Students. His other goal came in a three-one away win against Athlone Town in Lissywoolen back in March.
UCD have not released any team news for Friday’s game.
Shelbourne will be hoping that they can build on last weekend’s morale-boosting 2-1 away win against Galway United against UCD in Belfield.
In Shels’ two encounters against Collie O’Neill’s Students so far this season, they have only picked up one point from a possible six against the league leaders.
They met on the opening day of the season initially where the Reds fell to a 2-1 away defeat at the UCD Bowl.
In the next game, UCD stole a point late on as Gary O’Neill’s deflected effort found its way into the back of the net after James English looked to have sealed three points for Owen Heary’s side.
“We have UCD next week so if we can get a result down there, it would bring things back together,” said Liam Kelly, assistant to Heary, who is serving a two-game touchline ban.
“It’s been an exciting league so far and I think there’s a lot of teams still in with a shout.”
In terms of team news for the Reds, there are no injury worries or suspensions.
New signings Greg Moorhouse, who just recently signed from Sligo Rovers, and John Ross Wilson, formerly of Bohemians, could play a role in Friday’s crucial game.
Should Shelbourne win, they will cut UCD’s lead at the top of the pile to just one point with just eight games of an ultra-competitive First Division remaining.
Referee: Andrew Mullally.
Shelbourne have the best defensive record in the league so far this season.
The Reds have only conceded 13 goals so far this year. Three of these have come against UCD in their two encounters this season.
On the other hand, UCD have the best attacking record in the First Division so far this year with 40 goals to their name.
The recently-departed Georgie Kelly grabbed 14 of those for the Students in their 18 games to date.
Each time UCD have fallen to a defeat so far this season, they have won their next league game. In each of those three games, they have scored three goals.
UCD 13/8; Draw 23/10; Shelbourne 11/8.
UCD 2-1 Shelbourne