In an end-to-end first half; both sides stared hard and strong but neither blinked, as UCC and Sarsfields shot 0-9 apiece. UCC started well through Dara Fitzgibbon, who made it 0-1 with little over a minute played. High pressure troubled the Sars line, as Michael Breen shot wide for the college. UCC were gifted a goal chance minutes later as Anthony Spillane fed Shane Hegarty through, but the Newmarket forward’s shot was well gathered by Alan Kennedy in goal. Soon after Cian Smith levelled it, making it 0-1 at Pairc Ui Rinn. Within seconds of the restart Sars pushed ahead thanks to Quigley once more, with Sars leading by a point.
Both UCC and Sars traded blows for the second half. In what was a meek first half; stand-out performances from Rob O’Shea, Michael Breen and Conor Gleeson kept UCC at bay, as Sarsfields threatened. A late surge from Sars was quietened down late on, as Anthony Spillane and Rob O’Shea made it 0-9 to 0-9 at the break.
There was a helter skelter opening to the second half, as Sars were gifted a penalty after little more than 35 seconds. Up stepped Aaron Myers, who fired low, but in the lottery of the game Sars rolled a snake eyes, as Jack Barry swarmed the ball to prevent any rebounds. Combined points by Mark Coleman, Michael Breen and Rob O’Shea eased the college into a four point lead. Coleman cushioned the lead with an added point, and with ten minutes left to play the college cruised at 0-15 to 0-12. Resistance from Sars saw Eoghan O’Sullivan and Tadhg Óg Murphy pull two back. Darragh Fitzgibbon and Jamie Barron combined to quell any calls of a comeback, as UCC went 0-17 to 0-13 ahead with seven minutes left to play. O’Shea from the spot made it 0-18 to 0-13 as UCC eased into the closing moments well in control.
Sars piled men forward in the closing stages; a scattered moment in defence saw Gavin O’Loughlin feed Jack O’Connor to strike and pull a goal back for Sars. Deep into added time Eoghan O’Sullivan shot over the bar, setting up a slobberknocker of a finish. Breaths held, as a thrown ball at the back gifted Sars a free. Graham Ryan stepped up and with the coolest head in the Pairc, levelled the game at the death.
A replay was in order for the tried and tested UCC outfit. Boosted by the return of Tom Devine, UCC were steadfast in their preparations for the tie. Any worries of fixture congestion with the Waterford championship were eased, with Jamie Barron returning from Thursday’s outing to line out with UCC.
UCC started the replay well and were soon into a five point lead. The nit and grit which had seen Sars take three county titles in five years pushed through, and the determination from the likes of Cian McCarthy and Daniel Roche, roared Sars back level. At half time UCC lead 1-6 to 0-7 but a resurgent Sars fought back through an explosive second half with saw the East Cork side nip the game late on by a single point, crushing UCC’s semi-final chances 0-18 to 1-14.
Attention now turns back to the Higher Education Leagues as UCC aim to build on last year’s semi-final defeat to Limerick IT before the Fitzgibbon Cup in the new year.
UCC: J Barry; D Lowney, C Spillane, D Griffin, S Roche, C Gleeson, M Coleman, J Barron, D Fitzgibbon, M O’Brien, M Breen, R O’Shea, D Hannon, S Hegarty, A Spillane.
Sarsfields: A Kennedy; W Kearney, C Leahy, P Leopold, E Murphy, C O’Sullivan, G Grey, C Smith, D Roche, E Quigley, D Kearney, A Myers, J O’Connor, L Healy, T Og Murphy.