IT Carlow 0-07
It may not have been the most intriguing final of all time, but it will still go down in history as the day DCU secured their fifth and perhaps their easiest Sigerson success in a 7-point victory over first-time finalists IT Carlow at the DCU sportsgrounds.
With a panel representing 16 different counties across the country, alongside a playing combination of confidence, style and talent all over the pitch, the North Dublin University managed by blues legend Paddy Christie never looked to be in a difficult situation as DCU secured their first title since 2015.
Playing all of their games on home soil at the DCU sportsgrounds as tournament hosts, the Glasnevin side had seven points to spare on first-time finalists IT Carlow, having previously dispatched UCD by 15 points, Queens by 26 and the Garda College by 3 points, which the latter turned out to be by far their toughest assignment of a dominant campaign.
Former Dublin minor manager Paddy Christie, who is now part of the Tipperary management team, got his tactics spot on once again as DCU played a patient game and bided their time against IT Carlow’s counter attacking formation, with sheer discipline turning them over and breaking out of their defence in numbers at speed.
DCU opened the scoring in the first play of the match with Ballymun goalkeeper Evan Comerford, who was one of the shinning stars on the day knocked over what would be his first of 3 points throughout the match.
DCU had 3 goal opportunities in the first, all which went astray. The first came on the 13th minute when half forward Shane Carthy fired in a low ball to Michael Bannigan, but due to the slippery conditions it resulted in Bannigan and two IT Carlow defenders to fall, which left open space and a two on one scenario with Man of the Match David Garland and corner forward Thomas E Donohoe, the end product however was miskicked and forced wide.
IT Carlow were only able to receive two points in the first half, both coming from small gaps through the DCU defence which IT Carlow exploited and fired over by Laois man Evan Lowry and Cian Farrell, who was top scorer on the day with 6 frees.
DCU had two more goal chances in the first half, the second was another dropping ball hit into Monaghan native David Garland but was just struck wide and the third was a beautiful quick hand passing piece of play, with Kevin Flynn busting through the IT Carlow defence to pass it off to Donohue who quickly gave it to Garland straight in front of the goal only this time he was denied by a superb save from goalkeeper Killian Roche.
In high winds, DCU had to be particularly patient on the attack but with two points from Garland and a point apiece from Shane Carthy and Michael Bannigan, DCU led by just 0-5 to 0-2 at half-time but knew they could have been further ahead. Even a 10-minute sinbin on the 20th minute for captain Brendan McCole didn’t seem to bother the Glasnevin side as they approached the changing rooms for half-time.
DCU looked the fitter and more determined side in the second half, holding IT Carlow scoreless from play with Offaly’s Cian Farrell registering all of their points from frees. Just like the first half, the second half started with Comerford stepping up in the opening 40 seconds to pop over his second free.
IT Carlow needed a goal that never arrived and DCU, in turn, were more than happy to pick off the points in a controlled and commanding second-half performance that oozed experience and quality.
Dublin star Paddy Small kicked two eye-catching points for DCU while Dublin goalkeeper Evan Comerford took his tally to 0-3 for the evening midway through the second half with his third converted long-range free.
Small was on target again late on and another Dublin star, Sean Bugler, who lined out at midfield for DCU this season, rounded off the scoring with a fisted effort deep into injury time to put what certainly was the icing on the cake.
Black cards for Carlow duo Richard Hitchcock and Niall Hughes left them with depleted numbers late on under the new sin-bin rule but at that point it rarely made a difference to what was a dominate DCU performance.
Man of the Match David Garland had another strong game up front, scoring 0-4 and taking his tournament tally to an impressive 1-14, while fellow Monaghan forward Michael Bannigan finished the evening with 0-3 and the campaign with 3-15.
The final scenes resulted in Brendan McCole lifting the Sigerson trophy aloft, becoming only the third Donegal captain in history to captain a winning Sigerson side, the others being Donegal legends Christy Toye and Jim McGuiness.
DCU: Evan Comerford (0-03, 0-03f); Daniel Corcoran, Brendan McCole, Conor Morrison; Kevin Flynn, Jordan Morrissey, Declan Monaghan; Sean McMahon, Shane Carthy (0-01); Brian Stack, Micheal Bannigan (0-03, 0-02f), Sean Bugler (0-01); Thomas E Donohoe, Paddy Small (0-02), David Garland (0-04, 0-01f).
Subs: Tom Fox for Donohoe (38), Stephen Smith for Stack (52), Mark Curran for Morrison (54), Kieran Dwyer for Corcoran (60), Nathan Gavigan for McMahon (60).
IT Carlow: Killian Roche; Richard Hitchcock, Ronan Ryan, Josh Moore; Cathal Walsh, Trevor Collins, Conor Doyle; Niall Hughes, Sean Ryan; Adam Steed, Chris Byrne, Padraigh O’Toole; Cian Farrell (0-06, 0-06f), Jack Walsh, Evan Lowry (0-01).
Subs: Gearoid Murphy for J Walsh (38), Sean Crowley for C Walsh (48), Tommy Griffin for Steed (50).
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).
Image Credit: Conor Breslin