In their second group game of the Fitzgibbon Cup, UCD showed flashes of their best form only to lose their slender lead in the last minute, writes Micheal Halton
UCD welcomed NUI Galway to Belfield last Wednesday afternoon for the second fixture of this year’s Fitzgibbon Cup group stage. The game was played in ideal conditions and both sides took full advantage, to produce a highly entertaining encounter in which UCD fought back from four points down to move ahead in the final minutes, before Finian Coone levelled with the last puck of the game.
David O’Connor opened the scoring for UCD with a point, after a good delivery by John O’Loughlin put him into space, before Coone replied for Galway with a 30-yard free. Inter-county star David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan notched his first point of the game moments later, as the game opened at a frantic pace. John Lee, NUIG’s star man at centre back, drove over a superb point from his own 65 to level the scores again. UCD recovered well, however, with Joey Boland tapping over after a storming run through the centre of the NUIG defence.
The home side tore up the field yet again after a poor effort from Lee dropped short, with UCD’s John O’Loughlin lashing over to open his account, but defensive indiscipline proved costly for UCD as two pointed frees from Coone brought NUIG level. Galway substitute Caimin Morrey brought a fine save from UCD keeper Jamie Ryan, followed by O’Connor adding his second of the half to edge UCD ahead.
As the host side pushed on, O’Callaghan knocked over a brace of points from acute angles to put UCD three points ahead. NUIG’s powerhouse centre-back John Lee lobbed over a point in reply, however, to keep his side on terms. Peter Atkinson worked a point for UCD under pressure, before David Barrett responded with a long-range effort to reduce the gap. Good defensive work from both side kept scores to a premium until Maurice Nolan and Coone traded frees to leave UCD ahead by two points at the break.
UCD opened the second half well with points from Nolan and Atkinson extending their lead. The visitors roared back, however, notching 2-2 without reply inside ten minutes. Dangerman Coone blasted home a 21-yard free and added two pointed frees before substitute Caimin Morrey scythed through the UCD defence and lashed the ball past a helpless Jamie Ryan. UCD looked in trouble as Galway took control in midfield, and could have been further in front if they had not missed some gilt-edged opportunities.
Refusing to roll over, though, UCD fought back in the remaining fifteen minutes with Liam Rushe leading the charge. Rushe pointed a free before another fine save from Jamie Ryan kept UCD in the game. Coone grabbed his seventh pointed free of the day to leave UCD four points down with fifteen minutes remaining. Still the hosts refused to panic, and dug deep as Rushe added his second of the day after some fine play from O’Callaghan and Atkinson.
O’Callaghan swept over his fourth point of the game from the right sideline before three frees from Rushe – the second a monster from his own 65 – nudged UCD into the lead before Coone stepped up in injury time to spoil the day for the Belfield boys. UCD showed a lot of threat in attack but their discipline will need to improve if they have Fitzgibbon Cup ambitions.
UCD: Jamie Ryan; Eoin O’Shea, David Lyng, David Langton; Neal Prendergast, Oisin Gough, David Kenny; Liam Ryan, Joseph Boland; Maurice Nolan, John O’Loughlin, Peter Atkinson; David O’Connor, David O’Callaghan, Liam Rushe. Sub: Ciaran Lyng.