DCU suffer unexpected Sigerson exit against St. Mary’s

William Dunne

DCU Dóchas Éireann 2-13
St. Mary’s 2-14
Sigerson Cup quarter-final

Despite Enda Smith’s two second half goals for DCU, St. Mary’s fought back to force extra time, eventually winning by the narrowest of margins in an enthralling match to end DCU’s hopes of another Sigerson title.

DCU trailed by five points during the second half but turned it around and lead by four with just three minutes to go before Tyrone’s Cathal McShane levelled with the last kick of the game, at a sunny St. Clare’s last Wednesday, February 8th.

St. Mary’s Brian Óg McGilligan netted in the opening minutes of extra time and unfortunately for the Glasnevin side they couldn’t bridge the gap meaning it will be the Belfast side that will partake in the final weekend of the Sigerson Cup.

DCU started better getting men behind the ball and counter attacking fast when they retained the ball, and although they couldn’t conjure up any scores from play, they forced St Mary’s to foul.

The travelling side did their best to distract free taker Niall Murphy by shouting and moving in front of him however the Sligo forward kicked three perfect frees in the opening 15 minutes.

St Mary’s then went through a purple patch scoring six points without reply through frees from Niall Toner and magnificent points from Kevin McKernan and Conall McCann, taking full advantage of the wind.

Toner missed a free to stretch the lead to four just as DCU team captain Steven O’Brien was introduced to the game. Murphy slotted another placed ball right before half-time to keep just two points between the team at the break.

DCU were out on the pitch first for the second half and were notably more pumped following manager Niall Moyna’s half-time team talk. However, their seemingly positive attitudes didn’t show on the scoreboard as Colm Byrne and McShane swept over two early second half points.

Toner scored his fourth free of the afternoon to put Mary’s five point ahead before the first of two turning points in the second half.

Murphy scored two more for DCU including his side’s first point from play and then with 42 minutes gone, Mayo’s Patrick Durcan floated a ball into the air which was brilliantly won by Smith who held off his marker well before finishing on the ground to put the sides level.

St Mary’s didn’t wilt and through Matthew Fitzpatrick and through the engine that is Conor Meyler they went back in front by two.

The defining moment of the second half came on 54 minutes when McKernan attempted to offload the ball to Fitzpatrick before DCU ‘keeper Shane Mannion intercepted what would have been a certain goal, to set up an attack for his side.

The resulting attack ended up with another high ball finding its way to Enda Smith who netted his second goal of the game in dramatic circumstances to put DCU in the lead for the first time since the 19th minute.

A well worked team move involving Sheroz Akram and Kevin Feely set up Murphy for another point as well as two converted frees by substitute Shane Carthy put DCU four points up with just three minutes to go.

The atmosphere lightened around DCU’s sportsgrounds as it looked like the 2015 champions were returning to another semi-final but with two minutes left there was a scramble on DCU’s 21-yard line with the ball falling kindly to Toner who slotted to give Mary’s hope.

An extremely tense minute or so unfolded and although normal time was up St Mary’s fought hard to the death and with the last kick of the game 2015 Under 21 All-Ireland winner Cathal McShane popped up with the crucial score to put this extraordinary game into extra-time.

In the first minute of extra time McShane worked patiently with lively substitute Corey Quinn who skipped past DCU’s defence to set up McGilligan to slot the game’s essentially winning score.

DCU to their credit didn’t die and through substitute Tom Lahiffe they reduced the deficit to two but again it was that man McShane who added another for the visitors after taking a hit from Barry Kerr he switched onto his weaker foot to finish with composure.

James Durcan scored for DCU in the second period of extra time to bring the game back to two before Diarmuid O’Connor hit wide from a very scorable position.

St Mary’s understandably began to slow the game down to see out the remaining minutes but DCU’s pressure forced a turnover and when captain Steven O’Brien powerhouse his way through to score, the two sides were separated by just a point.

The time-wasting by the Belfast side almost had serious consequences when goalkeeper Mark Reid was penalised by the referee resulting in a hop ball however nothing transpired.

Carthy left a free short in the late stages and Smith almost got a hattrick but was denied by Reid meaning that St Mary’s still have a chance of lifting the Sigerson Cup for the first time since 1989.

DCU: 1. Shane Mannion; 2. Eoin Smith, 3. Sheroz Akram, 4. Séamus Lavin; 5. Barry Kerr,
6. Kevin Feely, 7. Patrick Durcan; 8. Caolan McGonagle, 9. Hugh McFadden; 10. Diarmuid O’Connor, 11. Mark Plunkett, 12. Enda Smith (2-01); 13. James Durcan (0-01), 14. Niall Murphy (0-07, 5f), 15. Ryan Burns.
Subs: Steven O’Brien (0-01), Shane Carthy (2f), Ultan Harney, Tom Lahiffe (0-01), James Mealiff.

St Mary’s: 1. Mark Reid; 2. Jack Hannigan, 3. Aaron McKay, 4. Kyle Mallon; 5. Colm Byrne (0-01), 6. Michael O’Hare, 7. Conor Meyler; 8. Diarmuid McConville, 9. Oisín O’Neill; 10. Ciarán Corrigian, 11. Joe Colton, 12. Stephen McConville (0-01); 13. Kevin McKernan (0-01), 14. Matthew Fitzpatrick (0-01), 15. Cathal McShane (0-02).
Subs: Niall Toner (1-04, 4f), Conall McCann (0-02), Conor Convery (0-01), Brian Óg McGilligan (1-00).

William Dunne
Image Credit: Darragh Culhane