(Photo: Jim Coughlan)
It has been a mixed period for UCC GAA, as the college’s Spring hopes were met with mixed results across the Sigerson, Fitzgibbon and Ashbourne Cups.
In the Sigerson Cup, NUIG pipped UCC 1-9 to 0-7 to book their place at the Cup Final weekend.
NUIG were out of the traps quick through Galway Inter County star Damien Comer. Eoghan O’Brien pulled off a great save to deny the Galway star the lead, but Enda Tierney slotted over the rebound. UCC’s Stephen Sherlock was delivered a ball by Cian Dorgan, but his effort went wide. After a good move for the away side between D’Arcy, Kelly, Cooke and Molloy, Jack Kennedy intercepted for the home side. Possession was then lost, and Peter Cooke launched a ball into Brian Donovan, who slotted it over for the visitors. UCC then set up good phases before losing possession.
Another UCC interception by Andrew Barry from a Galway attack meant that the ball was distributed among Kennedy, Foley and Barry, before possession was fed to Stephen Sherlock before being done for a double hop. Unfortunate luck for the home side. NUIG’s Molloy’s break meant that the away side continued to build phases from the back, only for Crowley to steal possession before feeding Dorgan, who slotted his effort wide of the posts. NUI Galway’s Sean Gallagher and Sean Kelly linked well but their move was thwarted by Andrew Barry. The game itself was on a knife edge, as both teams squandered positions after good work was made through the phases.
While the away side went into a commanding lead after the first quarter, UCC still continued to build phases through O’ Beaglaoich. While Galway posted another wide through Enda Tierney, they would end up breaking the deadlock, as Gallagher and Enda Donovan linked up to allow the Limerick man to slot past O’Brien to increase the margin between the two sides. Play got scrappy as another Galway attempt went a begging, as the away side seamlessly went through the gears while the home side struggled to bring their forwards into the game. UCC sought to make a change, and Fionnan Clifford made way for Daniel O’Brien. A skewed effort by Damien Comer at the other side after good build up play saw Donovan place his effort into O’Brien’s hands as the half played itself out. The away side led 1-4 to 0-2 at the break, with the home side registering the two efforts from frees.
The second half started at a frantic pace as UCC took the initiative. Killian Spillane’s shot came off the goal post. Shortly after UCC recycled possession, as O’ Beaglaoich and Adrian Spillane worked well to feed Stephen Sherlock, who slotted over a point. Cein D’Arcy took the mark for the visitors, as Gallagher saw himself being fouled by Daniel O’Brian, only for Adam Gallagher to slot over the point for the visitors to stretch their lead. After good work by Kennedy, Andrew Barry was dispossessed, with Sean Kelly playing deep for a corner forward. Brian Donovan was pulled for over carrying, which let off the home side. There wasn’t a score from the 40th to 50th minute, as the away side looked to consolidate their lead and position. It was very much topsy-turvy, as both teams struggled to put the necessary phases together for a scoring chance in the fourth quarter. Another Peter Cooke wide from a 45 saw the home side making a substitution, as Flahive was replaced for Graham O’ Sullivan. Cooke got on the scoresheet soon after.
While Adrian Spillane stole Tadhg O’Malley’s puckout, only for Molloy to steal again as NUIG played percentages as the game wound down. Sean Mulkerrin stumbled on a pass from Owen Gallagher, which allowed Stephen Sherlock to pounce on the loose ball, feeding Michael McSweeney, who was taken out by keeper O’Malley. O’Malley then received his marching orders in the form of a black card from the referee. A wild ending was to be seen, as sub goalkeeper Manus Breathnach came on to make a dramatic save to stop Killian Spillane’s penalty. NUIG put the final nail in the coffin as the ball was driven down field, and Cein D’Arcy slotted over the insurance point to seal the win for the visitors, who progressed into the semi finals of the competition.
NUIG: T O’Malley (Galway); S Brennan (Mayo), S Mulkerrin (Galway), A O’Connor (Kerry); K Molloy (Galway), R Greene (Galway), G O’Kelly-Lynch (Sligo); C D’Arcy (Galway), P Cooke (Galway); A Gallagher (Mayo), O Gallagher (Antrim), E Tierney (Galway); B Donovan (Limerick), D Comer (Galway), S Kelly (Galway).
UCC: E O’Brien (Kerry); F Clifford (Kerry), J Foley (Kerry), M MacSweeney (Cork); B Ó Beaglaoich (Kerry), K Crowley (Cork), C Kiely (Cork); J Kennedy (Tipperary), A Barry (Kerry); R Buckley (Kerry), A Spillane (Kerry), K Flahive (Cork); C Dorgan (Cork), K Spillane (Kerry), S Sherlock (Cork).
In the Ashbourne Cup it was third time unlucky, as University of Limerick beat UCC 0-15 to 1-9 in Mallow. UCC were hoping to avenge the 2016 and 2017 cup final losses, with the college looking for their first Ashbourne Cup since 2003. UCC however had reason to be optimistic, as All Ireland winners Orla Cronin and Amy O’Connor shone in the midfield in the close-knit affair at Mallow.
The Fitzgibbon Cup came as a deep shock for UCC, as the college were trounced 4-18 to 0-8 in Limerick by UL. This result seals off a forgetful campaign for UCC, with the college only gathering one win in the competition. They now go in search of their first cup success since 2013.