Dramatic late scenes were the order of the day for DCU yet again this afternoon as a last gasp winning goal from Darren Craven saw the Glasnevin side advance into the semi-finals of the Collingwood Cup on the back of a 2-1 win over University of Ulster Jordanstown.
After needing a penalty shootout to overcome Mary Immaculate in their first round clash yesterday, DCU looked an improved side today as they deservedly beat a UUJ side that had coasted through their first round match with a 6-0 win over RCSI.
On a bright sunny day in Belfield DCU started the stronger of the two teams as they looked to pick holes in the UUJ defence with some good passing play. The northerners looked to be relying on a more direct style of play in the opening half but the DCU defence looked solid with the centre-back partnership of Robbie Gaul and Tom Lahiff working fluidly.
Gaul, who recently signed for League of Ireland side Shelbourne, has been a rock at the back for DCU all season and converted the winning penalty yesterday afternoon to see his side into the quarter-finals.
The first chance of the game was to fall to UUJ however when a curling free-kick from 30 yards struck the post before it was cleared.
Five minutes later DCU took the lead on the half hour mark. A clever through ball from Daniel Mahon allowed Conor Ralphe to swivel in the box and lay the ball back to Shane Madigan on the edge. Madigan was at full stretch to reach the pass but managed to steer his shot towards goal where it took a deflection and found the bottom corner.
DCU were in control of the game now and didn’t look like conceding as the defence held a strong line, catching the UUJ forwards offside on a number of occasions.
Right on the stroke of half-time the northern side had a strong penalty appeal waved away by the referee after the ball looked to have hit the hand of Lahiff at the back post.
Ten minutes into the second half DCU manager Declan Roche made the decision to replace Michael Cogley with Michael Isichei on the right-wing. The move looked to be a good one as Isichei, who missed yesterday’s match through injury, caused havoc at the back for UUJ with his pace and trickery.
A blow for DCU however will be the withdrawal of Shane Madigan who limped off halfway through the second half with what looked like an ankle injury.
With twenty minutes to go UUJ were pushing for an equaliser and nearly found one when a close range shot was well saved by DCU goalkeeper Ben Dale before a free header from the resultant corner flew narrowly over the bar.
DCU almost made it 2-0 with ten minutes to go. With the UUJ defence becoming stretched as they looked for an equaliser, Isichei managed to break free down the right wing and cut into the box. His left footed effort from a tight angle was well saved by the Jordanstown goalkeeper, however.
But then came the drama. With four minutes to go UUJ finally equalised after a scramble in the box saw the ball fall to James McCabe who gladly tapped into an empty net.
The northern side celebrated wildly thinking that they’d managed to get the game to extra-time. DCU had other ideas however. After winning a corner on the right wing Adam Byrne’s cross was half cleared but only to Darren Craven on the edge of the box. Craven took a touch, composed himself and curled a beautifully struck shot into the top corner.
Now it was DCU’s turn to celebrate wildly as Declan Roche and his coaching staff jumped around on the pitch in scenes almost reminiscent of Alex Ferguson and Brian Kidd’s celebrations on the Old Trafford pitch in 1993.
DCU will take on NUI Galway tomorrow in the semi-finals with the other game taking place between UCC and NUI Maynooth after hot favourites UCD were knocked out by Maynooth this afternoon.
Image Credit: Ed Scannell