by Eamon Donoghue
DCU held out for their third All-Ireland title in a week by overcoming UCD in the Intermediate league final on Thursday last. An excellent first half performance laid the platform for a well-merited victory for Tommy Conroy’s troops.
A strong DCU side contained a good sprinkling of last year’s winning panel along with ten of last year’s Fresher’s winning side.
There was little or nothing between the teams in the opening stages as some excellent score taking from Patrick Fox, Peter O’ Hanlon and Jim McEneaney left the sides deadlocked at three a piece by the 15th minute.
Thereafter, DCU pulled away with four unanswered points, one in particular from the pacey Gary Sweeney catching the eye. DCU, employing an attractive brand of short hand and foot passing stemming from deep, added points from the impressive Colin Compton and centre half back Pete Dooney before the interval.
UCD replied on the resumption through a Luke Keaney free. The Donegal centre forward got on an enormity of possession and was amongst UCD’s best performers; although at the other end centre forward Jim McEnaney orchestrated proceedings for the DCU attack, particularly in the first half, when DCU were dominant throughout the pitch.
UCD, however, were a different team in the second half. The South Dublin side upped the physical stakes, winning the vast majority of the breaking ball. They redeployed midfielder Matt O’Hanlon to full forward line to try and pass out the packed DCU defensive unit.
The Wexford dual star linked up with another big man in corner forward Brian Hannamy, and only for some vigilant defending by the DCU defence, in particular Ciaran Cafferkey and captain Luke Bree, not to mention some fantastic goal keeping by Ryan O’Flaherty, they may have put more scores on the board.
A vital moment in the game was a point blank save made by the Dublin shot stopper, palming an O’ Hanlon’ shot over the bar mid-way through the second half.
UCD continued to reduce the gap; with four second half points from corner forward Lorcan Smyth. The Westmeath man had an opportunity to pile the pressure on DCU and make it a one-point game with a 21 metre free in the closing stages, but his effort dropped agonisingly short. The hanging ball was excellently claimed by substitute Danny Kirby, who was unlucky with a goal opportunity himself five minutes out.
DCU’s bench made a telling difference as the game seemed to be getting away from them; in fact DCU’s only point of the second half came from substitute Cormac Diamond – a ‘45 metre free from the right side-line which turned out to be the defining score.
Matt O’Hanlon followed this with UCD’s final score of the game, surprisingly choosing to opt for a point instead of trying to engineer a goal opportunity with the last kick of the game.
DCU’s first half showing of fluent inter play and clinical finishing, twinned with a great defensive effort in the second half when things were going against them were the key ingredients in this satisfying derby victory in Belfield.