With only a handful of players in UCD’s senior footballing ranks remaining from last season’s demolition at the hands of DCU in the quarter-finals of the Sigerson Cup, it was hard to predict how significant a motivating factor revenge would prove to be in this afternoon’s clash in the same round at Belfield.
That being said, motivating factors were never called into question as UCD were a goal to the good before the crowd even had time to notice the two changes to UCD’s starting team today. The match was just 20 seconds old when John Maloney (one of the changes) had set up Ryan Basquel (the other change) to drive the ball beyond James Farrelly in the DCU goal.
Mark Hughes made that a four-point start for UCD within a minute before the power behind a Farrelly kick-out was severely depleted by the wind and the ball fell into the arms of Ciaran Lenehan. The Meath man fed a running Jack McCaffrey who couldn’t be prevented from speeding into a dangerous position and firing a sublime strike into DCU’s net. The Glasnevin side were seven points down and the game wasn’t even two minutes old.
DCU’s Tom Flynn should have scored a goal to kick-start the Northsiders’ afternoon, missing the target by an inch with a daisy-cutter, but Craig Dunleavy collected a Conor McGraynor ball a matter of minutes later and raised the third green flag of the first seven minutes.
However, the goal provided false optimism for DCU as their city rivals unleashed a display of point-scoring that could only be applauded, with Paul Mannion’s 11th and 26th minute points being the pick of a bunch that sent DCU into the dressing room at half-time 11 points down.
By the fifth minute of the second half, DCU had yet to score a point from play but added their second goal of the afternoon when Conor McGraynor’s sliding finish sent the ball past Eoghan Keogh. McGraynor followed that up with a converted free before DCU’s first point of the game from play finally came as Colm Begley’s long ball into the full-forward line evaded everyone and bounced over UCD’s bar. Davy Byrne notched a pair of points before Paul Mannion and Gary Sweeney exchanged scores.
Still four points behind but with 14 minutes to play, DCU didn’t panic and the magnificent Conor McHugh trotted past several UCD backs and was fouled more than once in the opposition’s square. The whistle wasn’t blown as the referee held strong, as did McHugh’s legs and, staying on his feet, UCD’s net was rattled triumphantly.
A minute later, the boot of Fintan Kelly struck DCU level. The game had been resuscitated, Lazarus had been emulated.
However, it would have been a mistake of anybody to believe that DCU’s upward trajectory at that point would continue into the dying stages of the match, for that would suggest the Sigerson Cup contains a degree of predictability.
Sure enough, a lapse of concentration in the DCU full-back line led to the sixth goal of the day, Mark Hughes the scorer for the Belfield side. DCU didn’t seem to feel the impact of that hammer blow and Conor McHugh had the chance to level almost immediately but fired his shot on goal over the bar; a point which was immediately cancelled out by a Paul Mannion score.
The goal chances continued to flow though, and the best one of the afternoon came with five minutes to play when Davy Byrne found himself in space but an extraordinary save from Keogh between UCD’s sticks prevented another twist in an already manic match.
DCU managed another point before Conor McGraynor found himself standing over a free in the last seconds of the match, two points down. The wall of UCD players on the goal line could not be breached and the ball was palmed harmlessly over the bar to send UCD through to the semi-finals of the Sigerson Cup where they will face UUJ on Friday week.
UCD: E Keogh, R Wylie, D Byrne, R Tierney, C Lenehan, P O’Harnan, J McCaffrey, C Sheridan, J Maloney, B Fenton, M O’Hanlon, R McDaid, R Basquel, M Hughes, P Mannion.
DCU: J Farrelly, E Murray, D Wrynn, C Cafferky, P Dooney, G Sweeney, F Kelly, E O’Connor, T Flynn, M Quinn, C Dunleavy, D Byrne, C McHugh, C McGraynor, G Kelly
Image Credit: Sportsfile