DCU 2-10 – UCD 0-6

UCD crashed out of the 2013 Sigerson Cup at the hands of a more efficient and resolute DCU outfit at the DCU Sportsgrounds on Thursday. The disappointing result for UCD rules them out for the Sigerson Cup weekend of the semi-finals and final, taking place in Athlone on February 22nd and 23rd respectively.

There were high hopes for UCD coming into this game, after they had comfortably dismissed Trinity in the previous round. However, it was always going to be a tough challenge taking on the defending champions and pre-tournament favourites in the form of fellow Dubliners DCU.

The North Dublin team emerged victorious on a convincing score line of 2-10 to 0-06, with the on-form Michael Murphy and Paul Flynn grabbing the all-important goals. The game got away from UCD after a number of key decisions from referee Daniel Gough, including the controversial sending’s off of UCD inter-county stars Kevin McLoughlin and Donie Kingston midway through the second period, eliminating hopes of a UCD fight back.

UCD lacked penetration in the opposition half which ultimately proved to be their downfall, with the ruled-out Kevin Dyas a massive loss to the attack. The two dismissals surely didn’t help, and they came within four minutes of each other after just ten minutes of the second half and effectively killed the game from a spectator’s point of view.

Mayo star Kevin McLoughlin received a second yellow card after an alleged strike on a DCU opponent, while Donie Kingston got his marching orders after a fairly innocuous challenge after winning a free kick, to the obvious displeasure of the UCD travelling support. UCD also had claims for a penalty in the second half after Paul Cahillane was tackled aggressively inside the area, but the referee was not interested.

In a tight and low-scoring first period, the main talking point was the penalty awarded to DCU after Christopher McGuinness launched a high ball into full forward Michael Murphy, who was brought down by Rory O’Carroll on the edge of the penalty area. Murphy strike powered in to the back of the net despite a strong effort from UCD goalkeeper Eoghan Keogh, handing the initiative to DCU who never looked in danger from then on.

Murphy continued his heroics from the previous round against Queens University, scoring one majestic ‘banana’ point in particular which has dominated news in the GAA world since Thursday. The Donegal man-mountain notched up 1-04 and set up All-Star Paul Flynn for the clinching three-pointer midway through the second half.

The move started in the DCU half back line after a turnover, with Jack Brady switching play to McGuinness on the left. Picking out Murphy again and under pressure from Rory O’Carroll, the Donegal man offloaded to the onrushing Flynn, who fired the ball into the corner of the net under pressure from two UCD defenders.

UCD, to their credit, won a considerable amount of possession in the middle third, with John Heslin and Craig Dias battling hard. Cavan’s Niall Murray put in a stellar box-to-box performance, with Luke Keaney and the energetic Ciaran Lenihan making life difficult for the opposition, especially in the opening exchanges.

The UCD management will be happy with the heart shown by their players, having kept the pressure on the DCU defence despite being reduced to 13 men for the final 20 minutes of play. However, their conversion rate was not good enough to match that of DCU’s, with the latter’s physicality, in particular from Longford’s Michael Quinn and the aforementioned Flynn, giving them the edge at the breakdown.

After the 40 minute mark, and facing a depleted 13-man team, DCU found another gear and put the tie beyond any reasonable doubt. Paul Flynn, Chris McGuinness and Donie Smith all scored valuable points in the final moments, with Jack Brady and Johnny Cooper setting up various attacks and Murphy keeping the scoreboard ticking over in DCU’s favour.

Down the other end, goal chances were at a premium and DCU shut the door impressively as UCD pushed forward late in the second half, with Dias, Murray and substitute Ryan Basquel running at the defence with purpose, only to face a more resolute and composed DCU backline brimming with confidence and Sigerson Cup experience.

The UCD camp are surely left pondering what may have been after performing well below their capability. Despite the ten point difference between the teams at the final whistle, UCD stayed within touching distance of the competition favourites for long periods of the game.

The sendings-off of UCD marksman Kingston and the industrious McLoughlin were crucial in deciding the game’s outcome, while DCU rode their luck on a numerous occasions in defence. One wonders what could have been if it were fifteen against fifteen for the full game.

Many of the players are available for selection again next year and the management will be hoping that younger players such Keaney, Heslin and Basquel, will push on and drive success at Sigerson Cup level in the future. It will undoubtedly take a massive effort on the part of UCD GAA to ensure that the days of punching below their weight at Sigerson Cup level end in 2014.

By Shane O’Brien