February 15th, 2016.
DCU beat UCD by a single point at Croke Park in the Corn Daithi Billings Final on Monday, February 15th.
DCU were eight points up with eight minutes to go and looked to have the game wrapped up if not for a late onslaught by UCD, scoring two goals and reducing the deficit to a point with a minute left to play.
The Northsiders managed to see it out however and were crowned champions, lifting the trophy named after the late Dave Billings, the former Dublin GAA stalwart who passed away in April last year.
Billings was once in charge of UCD GAA and it was the South Dublin side who got off to a better start scoring two unanswered points from the boots of Barra McGarry and Darragh Lafferty.
It took five minutes for DCU to get into the game and they registered their first score with a goal from midfielder Ronan Jones.
A good run from Matthew Ruane opened up the UCD defence and his pass to David Brady put the corner forward in on goal, unselfishly offloading the ball to the Meath man Jones who punched the ball in from close range.
The goal turned the tie as DCU began to exert their dominance on the game with two points immediately after, Rory Feely’s one handed catch in the build up to DCU’s second point of the game was a particular highlight as the Athy man leaped far above his opponents and set up Ronan Jones to add to his own personal tally.
Darragh Lafferty and Gleeson kept UCD in touch with points before the aforementioned Lafferty punched a hopeful ball into the square by Barry McGinn into the back of the net to give UCD a one-point lead five minutes before the break.
DCU bossed the final few moments of the half as Brian Reape scored a free and a great point from play along with a score from Matthew Ruane as DCU went in at half time with a two-point lead, 1-6 to 1-4.
DCU manager Brendan Gillen was undoubtedly disappointed at the break as seven wides from his men meant they didn’t make their dominance on the field tell on the scoreboard.
UCD looked to make DCU’s wastefulness pay in the second half and as like the first, the Southsiders started on top and by the 40th minute of the game things were all level.
Wing back Jordan McLoughlin finished off a swift move by last year’s champions UCD for the levelling point although a goal may have been on.
DCU introduced Pierce Smith as they looked to regain the lead in the game and he made an immediate impact, a great run by the substitute brought play into the UCD 21 and when he passed to Brian Reape, the full forward beat his man and put the ball past Tommie Maher into the bottom left corner of the net.
Points followed from Brady and two from Smith before DCU struck the net for the third time in the game and looked to have the match won in front of a good crowd at a cold Croke Park.
Half forward Feely once again completed a great catch, beat his man and opted to go alone instead of using the man outside him blasting the ball into the corner of the net to open up an eight point gap with less than 10 to play.
UCD showed great spirit as they began to chase down the sizeable lead, some questionable defending by the DCU backs left the ball bouncing around the square and Darragh Lafferty was on hand to kick it into the Canal End goal.
With five minutes to go UCD full back Cillian O’Shea decided to take matters into his own hands running almost the length of the field to smash the ball into the top corner of the DCU net – a great finish for a full back.
Nerves were evident among the DCU players as they committed eight fouls within the final three minutes of the game, one resulting in a black card for Donegal man Conor Morrison for what can only be described as a rugby tackle.
DCU did hold on however, as a late free from McGinn brought UCD within a point but they were unable to level things and DCU were crowned champions in a game worthy of the surroundings on Jones’ Road to complete their league and championship double.
DCU: David Shannon; Conor Morrison, Daniel O’Neill, Daniel Gallagher; David McAtamney, Barry Kerr, Shehroz Akram (0-1); Matthew Corcoran, Ronan Jones (1-1); Matthew Ruane (0-1), Michael Plunkett, Rory Feely (1-0); John Kindlon, Brian Reape (1-5, 0-3f), David Brady (0-1).
Subs used: Pierce Smith (0-2), Michael Miller, Matthew Mckenna, Paul McNamara.
UCD: Tommie Maher; Darren Maguire, Cillian O’Shea (1-0), Peter Healy; Jordan McLoughlin (0-1), Colm O’Shaughnessy, Jamie Gillen; Stephen Quirke, Oisin Kelly; Brian Ó Seanacháin, Daragh Lafferty (2-2), Con O’Callaghan (0-1); Barra McGarry (0-1), Barry McGinn (0-4,0-2f), Dermot Gleeson (0-1).
Subs used: Francis O’Reilly, Evan Morahan, John Joe McGovern.
Image credit: Sportsfile