In the dying moments of a game destined to end in a draw, DCU needed a hero. Aisling Maloney stepped up and her strike brought the O’Connor Cup back to Glasnevin for the first time in seven years.
Just two hours earlier, a disappointing performance saw the defending champions lose their Giles Cup crown to the tune of twenty points at the hands Waterford Institute of Technology.
DCU sealed the O’Connor Cup in Abbotstown on March 12th with a 2-12 to 0-17 victory over University of Limerick but failed to retain their Giles Cup crown, losing 4-16 to 0-08.
In the O’Connor Cup, captain Aisling Moloney of Tipperary returned to the field of play from the sin-bin to set up a penalty, which Mayo’s Sarah Rowe converted to bring DCU back into the game with minutes to go.
Moloney then scored a point off the right at the depth, which put DCU a point ahead and ensured that they won their first O’Connor Cup since 2011.
Strong performances from senior players like Moloney, who scored seven points, Sarah Rowe, Leah Caffrey and Aishling Sheridan was enough to get DCU over the line in what corner forward Sheridan described as an “unforgettable moment”.
“It means so much to everyone and the management,” Sheridan said.
“This year, I don’t think the team has ever been as close.
“Hard work and the bond between the team just helped us get over the line and when the final whistle blew, it just felt like ten stone was lifted off my shoulders, just the relief and everyone bursting into tears of joy. It was just an unforgettable moment.”
Sheridan praised Moloney and her teammates; describing Moloney’s last ditch point as the perfect way to win her first O’Connor Cup in her last competitive game for the university.
“I knew when she was coming on that she was gonna do damage and she helped set up the penalty and then her taking that final point, there probably was no-one better to take that point,” she said.
“Even when we went a player down, we had gone a player down in the semi-final so we didn’t panic and I suppose we had to try and remain composed.”
Sheridan, an accomplished inter-county player with Cavan, compared third level football to that at inter-county and the different experience it brings to the table for young players.
“Just with all the girls, we’re all really close, some of us best friends in college. We’ve all so much going on outside with our counties and stuff but we all are committed and when we’re together we all want the one thing,” Sheridan said.
DCU and Dublin goalkeeper Emer Ní Éafa added: “You’re playing with players that would (at inter-county level) be on the opposition. Sarah Rowe and Niamh Kelly, I played against them in the All Ireland Final last year.”
The goalkeeper still has a year left at DCU. She recalled the closing moments of the game and also discussed her future plans with DCU.
“I actually didn’t know that the final whistle had gone and I was still roaring at the girls to get back into position but then once I realised, I just couldn’t believe it!” she said.
“It was just such a tight game, I can’t even describe the feeling.
“At times you can nearly see a game slipping away but once Aishling Moloney came back on she just got on the ball and that turned it around for us and we managed to get them scores and get over the line.
“We’ll take the days as they come never mind the year. We’ll see how we get on but hopefully, we’ll be back there next year.”
Hannah Mc Skeane captained DCU to the Giles Cup final and told The College View what went wrong for her side against WIT.
“In the game, we didn’t perform, we’d been performing all year,” she said.
“We lost a few players as well to be able to tog out for the O’Connor Cup game so that probably didn’t help the situation.
“A lot of us are freshers so probably the big day got to a lot of people.”
Looking forward from a DCU perspective, the majority of the Giles Cup team, including McSkreane, were freshers. Meanwhile, Niamh Rickard and Amy Gavin Mangan were called up to tog out for the O’Connor Cup final.
DCU will lose several players to graduation, such as Aishling Sheridan and Sarah Rowe, but Sheridan maintains that DCU is in a great place to continue to succeed for years to come.
“This will only be the start, I don’t think we’re ever gonna get weaker and now that we have the win and that mental block gone,” Sheridan said.
“I think there’s nothing stopping us and especially with the Giles (Cup) team, there’s some phenomenal players there.
“There’s nothing stopping them now from progressing onwards and taking our place.”
Image Credit: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile