In the past decade DCU was never known as one of the top hurling universities in Ireland, however in recent years the trophy cabinet has been beginning to pile up with hurling awards, with DCU most recently claiming back to back league titles with a three-point win over UC Cork in Carlow.
Although it won’t go down as the greatest or most memorable match of the year, the final portrayed two top teams that will now look forward to the new year with serious Fitzgibbon Cup ambitions.
It was UCC who got off the mark first with corner forward Tadgh Deasy making his presence known early by knocking over two points in the first 60 seconds of the match. DCU quickly replied with the ever-present John Donnelly collecting loose ball around midfield to set up Wexford’s Rory O’Connor who put it between the posts with ease.
Immediately from the UCC puck out Killian O’Dwyer was caught by referee Fergal Horgan for overcarrying which allowed the DCU team captain and full forward Donal Burke to fire over his first of seven points of the match.
Burke almost added a goal to his name on the eighth minute after John Donnelly fired in a long ball to the Na Fianna man, only for the shot to be denied from a wonder save by goalkeeper Shane Hurley. DCU ultimately remained on top with Donal Burke adding another point to his name as well as Colum Prendiville placing his name on the scoreboard.
The southerners came back to narrow the gap on the 12th minute when full forward Mark Keogh plucked the sliotar out of the air and used his strength to muscle his way in to score the only goal of the game from close range to put Cork in the lead by one point.
The final 15 minutes of the first half was an end to end affair with DCU placing five points from Donal Burke, Rory O’Connor and James Burke. However, UCCs half forward Robbie O’Flynn kept the lead for the Cork men by capitalizing on DCU’s defensive errors and popping up with two points of his own. A final shot for DCU’s James Burke on the 30th minute brought the teams level at half time on a score line of 1:06 to 0:09 points.
The men from the Lee side failed to emulate the high intensity they had in the first half which resulted in DCU capitalising. However, Cork nearly extended their lead early in the second half with O’Flynn almost snatching a goal only to be denied by the post and had to settle for a point. DCU’s half back Brian Ryan really showed his true potential in the second half, driving down the heart of the UCC defence to fire his name on the scoreboard. He would repeat this action two minutes later to get his second point.
The Cork men took the lead in the 46th minute from a 65-metre point from substitute Shane Kingston, however this would be UCC’s last score of the game. With three frees from the man of the match Donal Burke and a point apiece from John Donnelly, John O’Sullivan and James Burke to go three points up, DCU hurlers created history as they claimed the All-Ireland League for the second year in a row and for the second time in the university’s history.
The men from North Dublin will have little time to celebrate as they now shift their focus to the Fitzgibbon cup in January and will hope to carry this league success with them into the championship.
DCU: O. Foley; J. Curran, P. Smyth, D. Grey; B. Ryan (0-2), C. Burke, C. Prenderville (0-1); D. Reck, R. O’Connor (0-3); J. Donnelly (0-2), L. Gannon, F. Whitely (0-1); C. Hearne, D. Burke (0-7, 5 frees), J. Burke (0-2).
Subs: C. Dowling for Hearne (38 mins), C. Firman for Reck (57 mins), S. Ryan for J. Burke (59 mins).
UCC: S. Hurley; D. Lowney, J. Cashman, K. O’Dwyer; P. O’Loughlin, P. Cadell, D. Griffin; A. Casey (0-1), B. Hennessy (0-1); C. Boylan, R. O’Flynn (0-4, 2 frees), J. O’Sullivan (0-1); B. Sheehan (0-1), M. Keogh (1-1), T. Deasy (0-2).
Subs: S. Kingston (0-1) for O’Sullivan (35 mins), N. O’Leary for Cashman (38 mins), R. Connolly for Hennessy (47 mins), T. O’Connell for Casey (48 mins)
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