“It was just unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that the ball had actually gone over the bar.”
Conor McGraynor doesn’t do pressure. Rewind the clock seven months to a cold, misty afternoon at the Mardyke to this year’s Sigerson Cup final. Then forward the clock again through extra time, minus two minutes.
DCU had drawn level with UCC through goalkeeper Tadhg Lowe’s point from forty-five meters in the third minute of injury time, to keep them alive and in with a chance of this year’s Sigerson.
David Culhane’s goal inside 10 seconds of the second half of extra time looked to have sealed a UCC win, but only for a late rally from Niall Moyna’s DCU side with points from Conor Daly and Donal Smith, recent history could read a very harrowing chronical around Glasnevin.
Except that DCU had two strokes of luck that afternoon. Going into the final having not lost a single Sigerson final in three, and having the right boot of forward Conor McGraynor on the pitch to fire over what would be the winning point with seconds remaining.
“I was actually surprised to still be on the field at that point in the game,” he says modestly. “I had got very few touches of the ball throughout the game myself.
“Luckily the ball just landed back in my hands and I was fortunate enough for the ball to go over the bar. Ultimately it was the score that won the game but there were so many scores before that and so many more important plays.”
The win saw DCU claim their fourth Sigerson title in as many finals – 2006, 2010, 2012 and now 2015 – with McGraynor insisting that self-inflicted pressure was the only motivating tool required for the team.
“There was just such a strong team bond there that we were never going to lie down. We had been in such tough situations throughout the year where we were down in games.
“So there probably wasn’t as much outside pressure but we put pressure on ourselves to do the job for each other.”
February’s win saw DCU manager Niall Moyna claim his third Sigerson title, with McGraynor lamenting his manager’s ability to bond massive panels of players together into a winning team.
“It is a difficult task for Niall but he really is the magician when it comes to getting lads to play together and to play to his style,” he said.
“This year we didn’t just have a team-sheet, we had a panel. There were fifty lads training throughout the year and I’d say at least twenty counties were represented.
“That success of course comes down to the coaches (Moyna) has with him, Dermot Sheridan, Mick Bohan, Martin Conroy and Tony Diamond, who have all had a huge part to play in getting lads to play a certain way.”
McGraynor insists this style of play is reinforced by the constant and familiar relationship the panel of players have as a team unit.
“On a personal level we all just gel together between social nights out, training sessions and living together.
“And even those lads that didn’t live with us would pop in regularly for cups of tea so it was done both by the players and by the management together.”
As for DCU’s chances at retaining their Sigerson title in 2016?
“Yeah it’s going to be a difficult task. Out of (the current panel) I think Tadgh Lowe is the only one who is moving on so everyone else is still available.
“We will have the same guts as last year’s panel. We also have a strong Freshers’ team and of course there’s the option of one or two mature students coming back so we will have lots of strong, big-name players.
“There will be a lot of pressure going forward next year but if we can just do what we do and enjoy our football like we did last year, the wins just seem to come. There will be a lot of pressure, but I don’t think we’ll feel it.”
Return to the Mardyke on that misty February afternoon. The ball flies over the bar, the scoreboard reads 1-14 to 2-10 and it’s DCU’s name on the Sigerson Cup for the fourth time in nine years. Pressure doesn’t come into the question.
Aaron Gallagher (@AaronGallagher8)
Photo credit: Sportsfile