UCD squeezed past a gutsy DCU side to secure their place in the Sigerson Cup semi finals against the University of Ulster, Jordanstown, who knocked out reigning champions Dublin Institute of Technology in their quarter final last Thursday.
The two Dublin teams met at the same stage last year, with DCU running out ten-point victors on that occasion, but UCD were ready for them this time. The win keeps UCD on track for their first Sigerson Cup title since 1996.
The home side started the game with an electric pace, blitzing the DCU defence with an intensity they were not ready for. Incredibly, UCD opened up a 2-2 to 0-0 lead after just four and a half minutes.
Ryan Basquel opened the scoring on the day after he redirected a clever cross into the DCU net using his fist after only twenty seconds of play. This was soon followed by point and then, with only about two minutes on the clock, All-Ireland winner Jack McCaffery slotted home to give UCD their second goal before DCU had even registered an attack.
The visitors needed something to give them hope, and they got it when Craig Dunleavy hit the back of the net from Conor McGraynor’s cross in an almost identical fashion to UCD’s opening goal.
Despite their dominance in the centre of the field on kickouts, the visiting DCU side were plagued by a series of wides which saw them only register two scores in the opening half. UCD, on the other hand, were much more clinical.
DCU’s Davy Byrne and Fintan Kelly led a series of attacks on the UCD goal, but their forwards were wasteful. The first half was truly dominated by the hosts, as they went into the break with a 2-9 to 1-1 advantage and one foot in the semi final.
In spite of the favourable scoreline, UCD could be excused for feeling somewhat hard done by when it came to the officiating, with a few questionable calls going in favour of the visitors, especially in the late parts of the game.
The second half saw DCU gain the wind advantage, which was flowing towards their left corner forward for the rest of the game. Whatever was said in the half time team talk by the DCU coaching staff seemed to rouse the visitors into action, as they dominated after the interval.
Four minutes into the new period, McGraynor made sure that a goal was the opening scores in both halves. He slid in and tapped the ball past Eoin Keogh after UCD failed to clear their lines. Although they still trailed by eight points, the travelling side could feel their luck changing.
Ten minutes after McGraynor’s goal, DCU found the net again. This time Byrne’s looping shot fell just short of goal, causing confusion in the box, and Conor McHugh was on hand to finish it off and draw DCU to within a point, with the scores at 2-10 to 3-6 in UCD’s favour. A minute later, Kelly’s point brought the teams level.
This seemed to wake the home side up, as they sprang back into action and attempted to salvage a game that should have been won a long time ago. They immediately responded with the sixth and final goal of the game.
Mark Hughes shaped to shoot, but his attempt was blocked, but he still found the net after he was quickest to react to the boucning ball. Although it remained close for the rest of the game, UCD maintained the lead for the closing 13 minutes.
In the end, DCU’s inaccuracy was their downfall. Had they taken their chances, they could have won this game by three or four points. In the end, their efforts feel just short.
With the last play of the game, every UCD player on the field stood shoulder-to-shoulder on their own line as McGraynor lined up a free in from just outside the box. Trailing by two points, DCU needed a goal, but McGraynor’s attempt was deflected over the bar for the final point, and the referee blew his whistle from the resulting kick out.
The win means UCD march on to the semi finals of the Sigerson Cup, which will be held in Queen’s University, Belfast this weekend. The team will be in search of their first final since 2003, where they were comprehensively beaten 1-8 to 0-9 by NUI Galway.
UCD: Eoghan Keogh; Ryan Wylie, David Byrne, Rob McDaid; Paraic O’Harnan, Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Lenehan; Matt O’Hanlon, Con Sheridan; Mark Hughes, Paul Kingston, Brian Fenton; John Maloney, Paul Mannion, Ryan Basquel.
Subs: Conor Downey for Kingston (21), Josh Hayes for Fenton (43), Paddy Reilly for Lenehan (49), Colm Driver for Basquel (51), Shane McEntee for Sheridan (54).
DCU: James Farrelly; Edwin Murray, Donal Wrynn, Ciaran Cafferky; Gary Sweeney, Fintan Kelly, Pete Dooney; Eoin O’Connor, Tom Flynn; Davy Byrne, Craig Dunleavy, Michael Quinn; Conor McHugh, Conor McGraynor, Gary Kelly.
Subs: Jack Smith for Murray (15), Colm Begley for Kelly (22), Fiontan O’Curraoin for Dunleavy (half time), William Lowry for O’Connor (54), Fionn O’Shea for Dooney (58).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).