Sigerson Cup Semi-Final – UCC 1-14 NUI Maynooth 0-12

University College Cork defeated NUI Maynooth by 1-14 to 0-12 in the Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup Football Semi-Final on Friday February 21st at the Academy pitch at Queens University Belfast.

13-man UCC dig deep to hold off Maynooth

Report from the GAA.ie web site 

Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup Semi-Final: UCC 1-14 NUI Maynooth 0-12

UCC are through to the final of the Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup final for the second year in a row after a gritty five-point defeat of a star-studded NUI Maynooth side at Queen’s, Belfast on Friday afternoon. After losing last year’s final to DIT, Billy Morgan’s charges will be confident of winning their 21st title tomorrow after a remarkable backs-to-the-wall performance, which saw them face into the wind in the second half with a narrow lead and then overcome the dismissals of Alan Cronin and Michael Quinlivan.

After an early Paul Geaney goal, UCC led by 1-6 to 0-6 at the break, but Maynooth came back strongly in the third quarter and looked to be on course for victory when they equalised in the 41st minute, shortly after Cronin was sent off. The script appeared to be written when Quinlivan joined him, but UCC dug deep and, quite incredibly, defended superbly in the closing stages, before hitting the final two points to seal a place in Saturday’s final.

Playing with the strong breeze, UCC were 1-1 to 0-1 up inside the first two minutes with Kerry native Geaney hitting the early goal. Maynooth hit back with a couple of scores from their star attackers Paddy McBrearty and Eamonn Wallace, the Meath man popping over the bar after midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley had cracked a post. Both sides missed golden goal chances, with UCC hitting the crossbar, before Geaney and Conor Cox hit the target from frees for the Leesiders, who led by 1-6 to 0-6 at the break.

With the wind at their backs in the second half, Maynooth set about reeling in the Leesiders, with Donegal’s McBrearty opening their second half account shortly after the Kildare side’s goalkeeper, Mark Donnellan, had made a super save to deny UCC. Paddy Brophy then lofted over a long-range free to leave just a point in it.

Conor Cox nudged UCC two clear again with another free, but Morgan’s charges were dealt a hammer blow when centre-forward Cronin was shown a straight red card following an off-the ball incident. McBrearty had Maynooth level at 1-7 to 0-10 by the 41st minute, but Tipperary native Quinlivan restored UCC’s lead shortly after with a fine score from play and Cox drove over yet another superb long-range free.

Incredibly, UCC were reduced to 13 men when full-forward Quinlivan was sent off for a black card offence, having been yellow carded earlier in the game. UCC were forced to withdraw deeper and deeper into their own half in the final 10 minutes, but still had a three-point advantage with four minutes left when Tom Clancy found his range.

McBrearty pulled one back for Maynooth, but corner back David Culhane, a late addition to the UCC team, fired over an inspirational score from way out to restore his side’s one-goal cushion. The ever-reliable Cox grabbed the insurance point late on as UCC completed a quite remarkable victory. They now face the winners of the second semi-final between UUJ and UCD.

NUI Maynooth: M Donnellan; C O’Shea, P Faulkner, D Hyland; E Lowndes, F Conway, J Gonoud; MD Macauley, D Kelly; P Cribben, P Brophy, E Wallace; S Mattimoe, P McBrearty, D McNicholas.

UCC: B Kelly; D Culhane, E O’Mahony, F McNamara; T Clancy, C Dorman, B Shanahan; D Nation, I Maguire; L Connolly, A Cronin, B O’Driscoll; C Cox, M Quinlivan, P Geaney.

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Report: Brian Murphy

Video by Jerome Quinn for HE GAA