DCU Fresher’s reached their fourth All Ireland final in two years overcoming a fancied UCC outfit in a game where Ross Munnelly’s charges were called upon to exhaust their every last ounce of energy and spirit.
Played in far from ideal conditions, the encounter was an often sloppy affair with the error count high on both sides. Playing into a strong wind in the first half DCU were only a point in arrears at the break, despite being outplayed in almost every sector.
The reigning champions began the second half as they did the first, winning the throw-in through All Ireland U21 winner Tom Flynn with Enda O’Reilly finishing the play with a point.
In a contest littered with free’s the tie developed into a battle of wits between the rival free takers. DCU’s Shane Carey showed razor sharp accuracy from the placed ball, as did the UCC pair Conor Cox and Luke Connolly. Both were a constant menace to the DCU rearguard, as UCC’s direct game plan was proving troublesome.
Midway through the second half DCU hit the front for the first time through an Enda O’ Reilly free, following an inspirational burst from Dublin minor captain John Small. A period of UCC dominance ensued, this as they gained a stranglehold around the middle of the field.
DCU though ended the game the stronger and with the introduction of some very impressive substitutions, they withheld the late barrage of UCC attacks with a heroic defensive effort, coupled with some excellent counter movements led by Roscommon minor star Conor Daly and Cavan’s Conor Moyna.
The latter was extremely hungry in the scavenge for possession across the half back line and his sporadic bursts proved most effective. With many of the UCC team involved in a hurling semi-final the evening prior to the game, fatigue entered the fray as needless fouling led to bookings for midfielder Damien Cahalane and Conor Cox.
This was Cox’s second booking and the robust centre forward spent the final moments of the game on the line. Two late frees wrapped up the game for DCU and you couldn’t take anything from this hard working team who will no doubt improve as the year progresses.
In retrospect, UCC’s failure to translate their first half dominance onto the scoreboard ultimately proved their downfall.