UCD end DCU’s Ashbourne Cup hopes with stunning second half performance

Liam Ashton

DCU Dóchas Éireann 2-5
University College Dublin 1-14
Ashbourne Cup quarter-final

University College Dublin overcame DCU Dóchas Éireann with a strong second half performance in the quarter-final of the Ashbourne Cup on Tuesday evening, February 7th.

The tone for the match was set after the opening score UCD’s corner forward Úna Sinnott who slotted it over from the 21-yard line.

The intensity of the Dublin rivalry was evident as Sinnott gave a fist pump and a shout of encouragement to her teammates.

Sinnott put the visitors further ahead shortly after taking on two defenders to score from a tight angle near the corner.

DCU responded positively with a long distance effort from close to the 45, matching the class of the UCD forward on the previous plays.

The game’s first goal came as DCU half-forward Claire Sexton ran at the UCD defence opting for power rather than precision to smash the sliotar past Noelle Murphy.

UCD looked as if they were going to respond with a goal of their own but goalkeeper Emma Loo was quick off the line to clear the incoming high ball.

The visitors were awarded for their persistence and pressure of the DCU puck outs as UCD won the ball from midfield then provided a slip pass into full-forward Úna Leacy who found the net.

Despite the bitter cold playing conditions players from both sides were diving at attacking players with hurls raised to block any long passes and break down the play.

One such block came from Catherine Costelloe who charged down Eva Marie Elliot to stop a clearance.

Costelloe proved to be an influential player in the first half defending from inside the DCU half and also scoring four frees.

DCU’s Ciara Egan explained how their opponents responded so positively after conceding a goal early on to put them behind.

“UCD got more focused then and they knew how to deal with going behind more than we did. We thought we were further ahead than we actually were.”

After a late first half goal DCU’s Róisín Baker the score at half time was drawn at 2-4 to 1-7.

Caoimhe McCrossan, DCU’s wing-forward made a big impact for her side at the start of the second half both chasing down players and putting in a crucial block yet again stopping a UCD attack build.

UCD couldn’t be stopped for much longer as their touch and control of the sliotar under pressure allowed them string together a series of attacks with Sinnott and Denise McGrath getting clean looks to shoot.

Costelloe continued to punish the home side for committing fouls within scoring range as the try to slow down the UCD attacks.

After a period of scrappy play which saw neither team able to secure position and a series of kick passes in an attempt to get the sliotar to hand again, it was UCD who scored off that possession.

DCU kept the pressure on however and tried to drop the high ball into the full-forward line whenever they had a clear chance.

Centre-back Éilis Regan provided two successive significant blocks for UCD keeping DCU out who were now chasing goals.

Being down by seven points, Mary O’Connell scored a close range free to put her side down by just two scores.

UCD proved to be far too strong in the closing minutes with Costelloe and Denise McGrath both scoring frees, putting the game beyond DCU and ending their Ashbourne Cup hopes.

Substitute Siobhán Curtis made a strong run at the UCD goal breaking the line of defence to go one-on-one with the keeper for a consolation goal.

An impressive save from Loo finished the game off and summed up UCD’s string dominant second half performance.

Egan described the difference in skill and pace that their opponents showed in the second half which led them to a comprehensive win.

“Their touch was a much better they were ahead of the ball a lot more than we were and I think after the first half once they started getting a lot of scores our heads kind of dropped and that was it.”

An ecstatic Costelloe felt it was the determination of the team that ultimately secured them the win and the historic significance it had for this.

“I think we just wanted it more it means everything to the girls. There’s a few of them who have been here a few years and we haven’t made it to Ashbourne semi-finals for, I think, four years.”

Egan also looked forward to the rest of the season and to the Ashbourne Cup next year with a growing young team.

“We have the shield on Saturday but that doesn’t mean much. We’ll come back stronger next year almost fifty per cent of the team are Freshers so hopefully we’ll build on this and bring the Ashbourne back next year.”

Liam Ashton