DCU claimed the most prized scalp in Gaelic football yesterday at Parnell Park, where they produced an unlikely comeback to beat the reigning All-Ireland champions by 3-08 to 0-16.
With the teams level, it was Dublin native Davy Byrne who delivered the hammer blow for DCU with just seconds remaining. Byrne picked up possession on the right flank and cut across the ball with his right foot, sending it sailing straight over the black spot and sparking wild celebrations on the DCU bench.
Ten minutes before Byrne struck the winner it had looked as if Dublin had the game won. They had been stunned early on by a Conor McGraynor goal but had weathered the storm and seized control of the game. They held what looked a comfortable six point lead and DCU looked down and out, but they most certainly weren’t.
McGraynor gave DCU their first goal inside five minutes when he received a wonderful long ball from Donal Wrynn and struck a powerful right-footed shot across the keeper and into the corner.
Dublin stepped up to the challenge and Cormac Costello responded well, firing a left-footed 30-yard effort over the bar, followed by a similar point off his right boot to leave Dublin two points down after 15 minutes. It was a sign of things to come from the young Whitehall Colmcille forward, who managed to notch five points for his side.
DCU got men behind the ball and looked to frustrate Dublin, but in doing so left themselves short up front. Two points from Paul Hudson and a point from Costello meant that DCU surrendered a three point lead, leaving the sides level at the break.
After the restart Dublin came out firing, hitting four points in a dominant ten-minute period. The DCU defence looked unable to cope with the pacy Dublin forward line and it looked like a hammering might be on the cards as Dublin led by four with 25 minutes remaining, but that wasn’t to materialise.
The second DCU goal, a fortuitous one, came at a time when they desperately needed to halt Dublin’s momentum. Davy Byrne hit a towering left-footed ball towards the Dublin square and the wind seemed to catch out Dubs keeper Sean Currie as he let the ball saill over his head and all the way into the net.
Dublin responded well to the freak goal by hitting five unanswered points, two of which came from the impressive Paul Hudson, who finished the game with five points of his own. DCU were throwing everything at Dublin, but every time the college gained a foothold Jim Gavin’s men would come up with the answers.
Dublin now looked in cruise control with a six point advantage but DCU hit two back, one of which came as a result of a cynical Rory O’Carroll foul on Gary Kelly as he was going through on goal. O’Carroll was black carded and this threw the Dublin defence into disarray and opened the door for DCU to net again.
Full-forward and Wicklow native McGraynor used his physical presence to fend off challenges before feeding the ball to substitute Michael McCarthy. McCarthy finished with aplomb from ten yards, stroking the ball low past Currie in the Dublin goal.
Dublin responded well, as they had done to the previous DCU goals with substitute Daniel Watson scoring after a pinpoint delivery from the excellent Costello.
However, from the resulting kick-out Paul Flynn saw red after an incident in the middle of the park, with referee David Gough indicating that a punch was thrown.
The equalising DCU point then came from a Gary Kelly free, the substitute keeping his nerve and slotting over, ignoring the jeers of the Dubs faithful behind the goal.
Extra-time loomed but up stepped Davy Byrne, the Ballymun Kickhams man, to give DCU the sweetest of victories and leave the small crowd at Parnell Park stunned.
DCU advance to the semi-final of the O’Byrne cup to face Meath while defeat sends Dublin out of the competition.
DCU: J Farrelly; W Lowry, C Dunleavey, C Cafferky; E Murray, D Byrne (1-2), P Dooney; E O’Connor, B Donnelly; F O’Shea, P Fox, M Quinn; C McHugh (0-1, free), C McGraynor (1-1), D Wrynn. Subs: C Ward for O’Shea (half-time), T Flynn for Lowry (45 mins), F Kelly for Murray (47 mins), G Kelly (0-3, two frees) for Fox (51 mins), S Oates (0-1, free) for McHugh (58 mins), M McCarthy (1-0) for Donnelly (61 mins).
DUBLIN: S Currie; S George, R O’Carroll, M Fitzsimons; E Lowndes, B Cullen, D Daly; D O’Mahony, S Carthy (0-1, 45); H Dawson, P McMahon, J Whelan (0- 1); P Hudson (0-5, three frees), K McManamon (0-2), C Costello (0-5, one free). Subs: E Fanning (0-1) for Dawson (half-time), D Watson (0-1) for McManamon (48 mins), K Nolan for Fitzsimons (51 mins), P Flynn for Carthy (53 mins), C Walsh for O’Mahony (53 mins).
Black card substitution: N McGovern for O’Carroll (61 mins).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).