UCD were comfortably superior to their plucky, but limited opponents, and the match never threatened to ignite into the sort of contest that might have really warmed the cockles.
But even though UCD won handily in the end, they didn’t do it with the dash and style to convince you they’re good enough to win this competition. If they’re going to challenge for the cup they must improve significantly.
They played with little cohesion last night, but the occasional bursts of fluid football they produced were good enough to do away with Athlone. UCD started brightly by scoring two fine points, but by the 20 minute mark Athlone were very much still in the contest, trailing by just 0-4 to 0-3.
UCD upped the intensity before the break to score three unanswered points, and with the benefit of a stiff breeze to come in the second half, you already knew in your bones the favourites would win this without too much bother.
And so it came to pass. Even though they had to toil hard for them, they scored the first four points of the second half to make the win safe as leading lights like Rory O’Carroll, Shane Redmond and Alan Giles set the tone.
Redmond in particular was impressive, the Carlow man showed his colleagues in the forward line how to find the posts by sallying forth from his wing-back berth to kick two eye-catching points from distance.
UCD needed his inspiration, because with Donie Kingston having a rare off-night, their forward line didn’t pose the sort of threat it can when the Laois man is in the zone.
They didn’t need him at their best in this match though, because while Athlone never stopped trying, a solitary point was all they had to show for their second-half endeavours.
Scorers for UCD: A Giles 0-3, S Redmond, L Smith, C Carty (2f), D Kingston (2f), all 0-2, C Murphy, K Dyas both 0-1
Athlone IT: D McGovern, A Sullivan, P Bannon, E Clarke (f) all 0-1.
UCD: M Macgfhionnlaoch (Donegal); J Hayes (Cavan), C Forde (Galway), P Kelly (Kildare); C Barrett (Mayo), R O’Carroll (Dublin), S Redmond (Carlow); Colm Murphy (Dublin), Mark Coghlan (Dublin); C Carthy (Wexford), K Dyas (Armagh), C Dias (Dublin); D Larkin (Meath), D Kingston (Laois), A Giles (Westmeath).
Subs: L Smith (Dublin) for D Larkin (43), R Mallon (Down) for C Carthy (46), L Cawley for C Dias (57), L Keaney (Donegal) for R O’Carroll (60)
ATHLONE IT: G Connaughton (Westmeath); R Dunne (Offaly), C Duignan (Roscommon), D Maleady (Offaly); A Rowan (Longford), M McCallon (Westmeath), T Rahill (Meath); D Cash (Kildare), P Bannon (Westmeath); E Clarke (Laois), J Dolan (Westmeath), A Sullivan (Offaly); A Caul (Dublin), F Burke (Galway), D Egan (Offaly).
Subs: D McGovern (Meath) for D Maleady, C Duggan (Galway) for E Clarke both half-time, P Masterson (Longford) for D Egan (55)
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).