Semi-final losses in both the Crowley Cup and plate competitions saw DCU leave the University of Ulster Coleraine empty-handed despite impressing throughout.
Manager Paddy Keely travelled north more in hope than expectation, due to a number of late withdrawals from his squad, but his weakened team acquitted itself well over the stamina-sapping two-day event.
Due to there being only six entrants, the tournament was shortened by a day, which meant DCU had to play four 60-minute matches in a 28-hour period.
In the group stages on Friday, DCU opened the tournament with a convincing 3-0 win over University of Limerick. Two penalties from John Reed and a third, courtesy of a speculative long-range drive from Gavin Kenny that somehow managed to squeeze under the Limerick keeper’s body, saw DCU take the points in their first group match.
By the time the Dublin side faced NUI Maynooth in their next group game, a semi-final spot was already secured thanks to NUIM also overcoming UL.
DCU rested five starters from the opening game with one eye on the following day’s exertions, but this didn’t seem to translate to the players on the pitch as both teams went hell for leather for the win that would see them top the group.
However, DCU conceded just before the break and were eventually beaten 2-0, the second goal coming in the latter stages as DCU were pushing for an equaliser.
Their reward for finishing second was a semi-final berth against holders, hosts and pre-tournament favourites UU Coleraine. Having not entered a team in this year’s senior competition, the Collingwood Cup, Coleraine had a very strong squad and it showed.
They dominated the opening exchanges and a tired looking DCU struggled to get out of their half. It was no surprise when Coleraine got their noses in front after 15 minutes. DCU, however, managed to almost get back on level terms immediately when an indirect free kick from Reed inside the Coleraine penalty area smashed off the foot of the post.
DCU were to rue this missed chance as Coleraine snatched a second on the stroke of half-time, after a corner caused havoc in the DCU penalty area.
The game seemed to be up for DCU against a dominant Coleraine, but just five minutes after the restart the Dubliners were awarded a penalty when Reed was upended by the Coleraine goalkeeper.
Having scored twice from the spot on the opening day, it looked a formality for Reed, but he shot straight down the middle and the keeper was able to push it out for a corner.
Despite continued late pressure, DCU couldn’t get themselves back into the game, resulting in Coleraine advancing to the final.
There was no time for regrets for DCU, though, as within an hour they had to face into a plate final against NUIM who had lost their cup semi-final against University College Cork.
Another tight game between the two was finally swayed in the direction of the Kildare side, with a quick brace mid-way through the second half that left a dejected DCU team out on its last legs after four hours of tough tournament football. With no way back, DCU cleared the bench as NUIM added another two goals to deservedly lift the Crowley Plate.
Image Credit: Fran Butler.