The 2017 Intervarsities began with a clear goal for the UCC men’s hockey team: win the plate and gain promotion. In a group containing an organised UL side and the unknown entity of NUIG it was not simply a case of show up and just be victorious. The first day saw UCC take on UL at 3pm. UCC dominated the early exchanges with some darting runs from Eoin Finnegan causing havoc amongst the opposition defenders. Sam Grace then eventually made them pay when he ripped in a dragflick after 15 minutes to score the only goal of the opening half.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first but UL found themselves on the scoresheet against the run of play from a tidy short corner routine. UCC however had the fitness and composure to pull away late in the game with Sam scoring a second flick to put UCC ahead. Two fine finishes from Eoin Finnegan and Billy Mulcahy glossed off a 4-1 scoreline. Man of the match: Andrew McGregor.
The second game of the day was undoubtedly a more straightforward one. NUIG relied heavily on some core players whereas UCC, where hockey is far more popular, had a much stronger squad. Darren Wilkinson, Barry Cronin and Sam Grace had UCC cruising after 12 minutes, but they didn’t take anything for granted and refused to take the foot off the pedal.
Sam Grace and Colin Kingston scored a drag flick a piece to put the team 5-0 up early in the second half, and as NUIG tired towards the latter end of the game Andrew McGregor got in on the act with a smart finish off a short-corner. Sam eventually got his hat trick, flicking high from a penalty stroke. Man of the match: Sam Grace.
The second day of the varsities saw UCC roar into the semifinals against a DCU side with some very talented hockey players. Tactically, however, UCC got it far better. Sam Grace (2) and Colin Kingston continued the team’s short corner success with their draglicks, while Stephen Jermyn got his first of the tournament. Shane O’Halloran, who had been dominating defenders all weekend, came up with two thunderous strikes that left the keeper rooted to the spot. Darren Wilkinson, not wanting to be outshone, beat 4 defenders from the edge of the circle, and cannoned home leaving the final scoreline reading UCC 7 – DCU 0. Man of the match: Darren Wilkinson.
The final was the following day, with a stubborn ITT in the way of a UCC victory. Again, UCC were the better side from the off, with several clear-cut chances going a begging as they trickled past the outside of the post. This was made even worse when ITT got an impressive goal on the counter attack to leave it 1-0 to the Tallaght side going into halftime.
Some resolute defending and hard graft from the midfield trio meant UCC were by no means out of the tie, and they continued to pile on the pressure high up the pitch. They inevitably got their just rewards when Eoin Finnegan smashed in a quickfire double to put UCC ahead. ITT, to their credit, refused to give up, and got an equaliser with 15 minutes left. Determined to come away with nothing but a win, UCC pushed on once again and found Billy Mulcahy, a relatively new Hockey player, on the end line. Billy proceeded to lift the ball up on his reverse and blitz through the defence before placing his shot into the bottom right hand corner. Some tactical flicks to the corner flag to slow the game down meant that UCC were victorious once the final whistle blew. The deserved winners throughout the tournament as they pulled through each setback they faced.