DIT won their first CUFL Premier League title after an engaging war of attrition with DCU, in which the tackles were biting, no quarter was asked or given, and chances were contained to a premium.
Second half goals from Aaron O’ Dwyer and substitute Sam Simpson were enough to see off DCU, who had dominated in terms of possession for prolonged spells of the final 45 minutes, despite being down to ten men after Rory Dunleavy was correctly sent off for a second bookable offence in the 41st minute.
As a spectacle, this was befitting of the occasion and in stark contrast to when the sides met in their final group game in November in what proved a rather flat affair. However, the one constant between the two ties was the result; DIT proved the shrewder and more clinical, when all was said and done.
DCU could have done little more and, played some of their best football of the season in the second period. It was not to be this year, but their time will come.
DIT looked sharper in the opening exchanges, while DCU were slow to find a rhythm. Their early dominance, however, failed to yield any chances for DIT, and matters remained tentative. Eoin Murray’s free kick shook the game to life on the half-hour mark; his curling effort from thirty yards was tipped on to the crossbar by Ben Dale, and cleared from the goalmouth by Robbie Gaul.
This awakened both teams to the gravity of what was at stake and the level of intensity, particularly in the tackling, increased visibly. When Rory Dunleavy was dismissed by referee, Paul Tuite, there could be little complaint, but in Dunleavy’s defence there was no malice intended, and the challenge was just a manifestation of the prevailing physicality.
DCU regrouped quickly and ended the half on the attack, with Stephen Traynor’s long range effort not far off target after he linked up well with Daniel Mahon.
Declan Roche made some astute tactical changes at the break, bringing on David Brick and Connor Ralph for David Lodola and Philip Kavanagh. DCU lined up with three across the midfield for the second half, using Brick and Ralph to augment Traynor, while Michael Isichei and Daniel Mahon interchanged leading the line and playing wide right.
The adjustments galvanised DCU and they monopolised possession, forcing DIT to absorb large amounts of pressure. Connor Ralph passed brilliantly, linking up well Traynor, in turn bringing Mark Logan and Isichei into the game down the right hand side.
Michael Isichei came close to breaking the deadlock six minutes in; having been put through by Mahon, his side-footed effort was palmed away brilliantly by Nathan Cooney at the near post. Aaron O’ Dwyer’s goal four minutes later came from DIT’s first meaningful attack of the half. Dwyer latched onto a Gavin Mc Cardle clearance that fell favourably into his path, before beating Dale with a clever finish.
Undaunted, DCU pursued an equaliser vigorously, but were unable to unlock the DIT defence, full back Connor Dowd deserves no small amount of credit for this. As the half wore on DCU began to fatigue, their endeavour and the man advantage, proved telling.
The site of Sam Simpson’s innocuous shot slipping through Ben Dale’s hands and rolling into the net with five minutes to go, must have been sickening.
Yet, they would not accept defeat, and Connor Ralph’s effort from point blank range was somehow kept out by Cooney in the dying seconds after another sweeping attack.
Tom Rooney at Frank Cooke Park