When a game ends 2-16 to 0-13, one can generally assume that it was a hammering, but the Freshers A league semi-final was anything but. DCU overcame CIT in the DCU Sports Grounds in what was a pulsating encounter. The game lived up to its billing, with quality football played at a high tempo from the outset.
The first half was very tight leaving DCU leading by 0-08 to 0-07 at the break. Neither side were able to pull away until the closing stages, when DCU scored 1-05 in the last fifteen minutes.
At half time it was clear that whichever team got the first goal would be in a strong position to see the game out. It was in the 40th minute that DCU midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor’s powerful run took out 4 CIT defenders before he fired low into the bottom corner. It was a real solo effort and the finish oozed composure.
The first half had very few goal chances of note although the palms of CIT goalkeeper Paddy Rossiter were stung twice in succession 20 minutes in, after half-forward Cian Breheny used his pace to break through the visitors’ defence. The CIT defence struggled to deal with the direct running style of the Sligo native throughout the first half and he notched one excellent right-footed point.
However, it was DCU’s Adam Gallagher who stole the show in the first half, as he showed his ability by kicking four frees, using both feet to do so.
O’Connor’s goal was the first score of the second half before Gallagher tacked on another free, leaving five points between the sides with 20 left on the clock. CIT then showed great spirit by hitting four unanswered points to bring themselves within a point.
The momentum was now with CIT as the midfield pairing of Ciaran Murphy and Ryan Harkin gained control of the middle third. DCU needed leadership and it was centre-forward Gallagher who again came to the rescue. He fired his sixth point from a tough angle. It was a stunning effort which gave DCU some breathing space again, before the hosts host pulled away late on, building up a five point lead with eight minutes remaining.
Gallagher wasn’t the only forward proving crucial for his team. CIT full-forward Conor O’Shea was coming deeper to win the ball and it was proving an effective tactic. O’Shea was winning fifty-fifty ball and turning it into scores, notching one himself and winning a free when he was dragged down after a skilful pick-up. His physical presence was giving the home defence a torrid time.
Corner-forward Evan Keane got two points which helped DCU to build up their five point advantage. Then came the killer blow with substitute James Durcan netting a powerful right-footed shot from 10 yards.
There was late controversy when DCU were leading by 2-15 to 0-13. CIT’s O’Shea was involved again as his thunderous close range free hit the underside of the bar and bounced out. The CIT players and mentors were convinced that it was over the line and five of the players surrounded the referee, before a selector ran on to the pitch and proceeded to admonish the referee. These were bizarre scenes, with the players and coaches seemingly not realising that the game was all but over.
Eoghan Smyth fisted over a late score to put icing on the cake for DCU, leaving the score 2-16 to 0-13. A scoreline that was slightly unfair on the visitors, who weren’t that far off the pace by any means.
DCU scorers: A Gallagher (0-07) C Breheny (0-01) D Ward (0-01) E Smyth (0-02) E Keane(0-03) J Durcan (1-00) D O’Connor (1-00) S O’Brien (0-02)