It was a tense finish at St Merediths, Belfast today when DCU beat St Mary’s in the final minutes of extra time with the score line finishing 1-11 to 0-11.
DCU kicked off the game with a Conor McHugh free in the first minute, however St Mary’s took over from there and dominated the majority of play in the first 30 minutes.
The Ranch men had their game plan on point and were successfully executing their blanket defence strategy, making it difficult for DCU to get into the game.
The Dublin side did retain a great deal of possession and with some strong runs from half backs Conor Moynagh and Colm Begley, it looked like DCU could keep in well in reach with St Mary’s.
Paddy Tally’s men were on form however scoring four successive points in the early minutes of the game, two from Armagh talisman and St Mary’s captain, Aidan Forker.
DCU had a lot of chances to catch up with St Mary’s but failed to beat the blanket defence and convert scores from far out.
Down brothers Jerome and Ryan Johnston didn’t make things any easier for DCU, scoring three points between them, however Ryan received a straight red minutes before half-time.
McHughs’s frees kept DCU in the game in but their failure to break St Mary’s strong defence left them trailing 0-3 to 0-8 at the break.
Niall Moynagh made some important changes at half-time giving DCU a boost at the start of the second half with Conor McGraynor and Donie Wrynn both making their presence known around the forward line.
A confident looking DCU team came out in the second half, creating scoring chances and breaking through the St Mary’s 45-yard line.
Two wides from McGraynor and Begley and an unfortunate clip of the post from Enda Smith still left them with work to do but their experience was beginning to shine through.
It took 10 minutes for a score to be put on the board when a St Mary’s free fell short into the hands of Forker, who slotted it over.
Conor Moynagh’s runs deep into the St Mary’s defence eventually paid off as he replied with an impressive point to kick start DCU’s run of scores.
A fumble from St Mary’s goalie Rory Burns allowed McGraynor to scoop up the ball and tap over a handy point, before a long ball in from Moynagh was punched into the net by substitute Donie Wrynn.
DCU’s hard work began paying off and with a Shane Carey free bringing the sides level, the game was anyone’s to win.
With a St Mary’s free on the 21-yard line in the last minute of the game it looked like it was all over for DCU. Corner forward Thomas Canavan, who had been taken off, was brought back on to slot over the free and did so comfortably.
However within the second minute of added time substitute Donie Smith equalised again with a longe range shot, leaving it up to extra time to separate the teams.
With both teams now back to a full 15-man squad, the first half of extra time kicked off just as tight as the first 60 minutes had ended. A DCU 45 and St Mary’s free, both easily converted, left the sides level again at the break.
DCU’s experience and quality of players left St Mary’s reeling in the second half however, with another converted 45 from goalie Tadgh Lowe and a superb score from Colm Begley.
A well taken point from substitute Simon McCoy in the last few minutes left DCU with their biggest lead of the game and ultimately the final score.