Finn Harps’ resurgent form continued in Ballybofey as they claimed their first league win of the season with victory over UCD.
A Nathan Boyle strike, sandwiched by Caolan McAleer’s brace sees the Donegal side narrow the gap between themselves and College to three points with one more game played.
While defeat for UCD means they have now lost each of their seven league games away from the Bowl.
Looking for their first top flight win on their own patch since July 2017, it was Harps who struck first.
Sean Boyd and Neil Farrugia both had early chances before Keith Cowan’s sublime ball from deep found McAleer on the right.
The Tyrone man neatly cut inside Mark Dignam before firing his effort from the angle against the far post and beyond Conor Kearns.
The outlook would have been brighter for Ollie Horgan’s charges had it not been for the alert Kearns four minutes after the opener.
Daniel O’Reilly’s stooped header from a Mark Russell set piece bounced off the inside the post. With Boyd in close proximity, Kearns showed superb reactions to pounce on the ball before the on-loan striker could pounce.
McAleer’s well-struck volley dipped at the wrong time after Liam Scales conceded possession to the winger, slipping twice as he prepared to clear the ball.
While Harps had the woodwork to thank shortly before the half hour when Peter Burke allowed Russell’s looped clearance slip through his hands and on to the top of the crossbar.
The frame of the goal was involved once again two minutes from the break, this time at the UCD end as Harps spurned a great chance to cement their dominance.
Kearns’ acrobatics pushed McAleer’s initial drive at goal onto his post, while Boyd didn’t react to the second ball in time. Instead hitting the side netting with the goal gaping.
Harps looked set to condemn the Students to another defeat on the road just 53 seconds past the re-start.
Substitute Raff Cretaro’s raking diagonal ball was well held up by John Kavanagh who teed up Boyle. The Derry native blasting past the beleaguered Kearns from eight yards.
Two became three on 66 when Tony McNamee broke through the middle. He played possession into the path of McAleer who with options to his left, instead decided to back himself as he beat Kearns once again with a pacey finish.
Boyle could only clip his next go at goal over the crossbar at the front post, while the Dubliners should have had a consolation goal eight minutes from time.
Substitute Sean McDonald doing well to find Neil Farrugia from the left, but the latter could only pull the ball wide of the mark from close range.
Finn Harps: Peter Burke; Daniel O’Reilly, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd; John Kavanagh, Tony McNamee, Mark Coyle, Mark Russell (Niall Logue 61); Caolan McAleer (Mikey Place 77); Sean Boyd (Raff Cretaro 44), Nathan Boyle.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Daniel Tobin, Liam Scales, Josh Collins, Mark Dignam (Kevin Coffey 67); Richie O’Farrell (Jason McClelland 84), Paul Doyle, Gary O’Neill, Neil Farrugia; Conor Davis (Sean McDonald 76), Yousef Mahdy.
Referee: Neil Doyle.