Video: UU edge St Mary's to secure Sigerson weekend spot
Sigerson Cup quarter-final:
Ulster University 0-14 St Mary’s University College 1-6
THE extra bit of quality in the Ulster University attack was just enough to see them past an exceptionally dogged challenge from city rivals St Mary’s on Wednesday.
While the underdogs’ defence dealt brilliantly with the star-studded UU attack in open play, the finishing of Patrick McBrearty from dead balls was something St Mary’s couldn’t match. The supplementary raids from the likes of Frank Burns, Ronan McNamee and Ryan McAnespie was enough to see Barney McAleenan’s side through to the finals weekend they will host later this month.
For Patrick McBrearty, having a squad bursting at the seams with inter-county talent brings a will to succeed rather than a fear of failure: “We want to be in it," he said.
"I don’t know if it’s pressure or ambition. Probably a wee bit more ambition. We don’t want to be sitting at home watching the final on TV. We wouldn’t have wanted to not be at the weekend, with the university hosting it. We’ve put a lot of work in this year and we’ve already done 200 per cent better this year than we did last year.”
A superb score from a sideline ball by the Donegal forward was the score of a first-half UU ended with a 0-7 to 0-2 lead. It wasn’t a huge gap considering the strength of the breeze the favourites had at their back in the opening period.
St Mary’s loaded their own '45’ with bodies, bringing 14 men behind the ball at times, and that made it difficult for their hosts to pick a way through. The Sigerson hosts were 0-4 to 0-0 up inside seven minutes, with two McBrearty frees, a Hughes effort and a fine '45’ from Ethan Rafferty setting the ball rolling. But Hughes soon moved out around the middle as the game settled into a much more defensive pattern.
St Mary’s brought Kevin McKernan into the full-back line to mark McBrearty which, allied to Patrick McAleer’s fine display, had a significant impact. The maroon shirts took heart from tightening up and, when Ronan O’Neill pointed a second free to make it 0-6 to 0-2 after 22 minutes, you could sense their belief growing.
UU midfielder Niall McKeever had just been shown the first of the niggly game’s three black cards after a late tackle on Danny McBride, who had an influential game around the middle for the beaten side.
McBrearty’s superb score from a line ball on the '13’ left it 0-7 to 0-2 at the interval. St Mary’s stayed out on the pitch and, by the time the white shirts came up the hill to resume the second-half, the wind had all but died.
That was the kind of unlucky break the underdogs couldn’t afford, but they will have more regret over their own attacking display in the second-half. They squandered 13 of the 18 scoring chances they created after the interval.
Ulster Uni, with the pace of Ryans McHugh and McAnespie finding fruit in the increased space they were afforded on the counter, did enough to keep St Mary’s at arm’s length throughout.
With a quarter of the game to play, Conor Meyler - who carried serious ball and was relied on far too heavily by his side - played a magnificent diagonal ball to half-time sub Jerome Johnston. He had options either side, but backed himself from 15 yards and hit a stunning effort into the top corner, though Sean Fox was unfortunate not to keep it out.
That made it 0-8 to 1-3, but St Mary’s could have been at least level by then. Ryan McAnespie burst free to push UU three clear again with a fine finish to a move started by Frank Burns. The Tyrone U21 captain’s raids were a source of constant joy for UU.
Kevin McKernan fired over to make it 0-9 to 1-4, but that was as close as St Mary’s got. Their efforts caught up with them as Ronan McNamee, Conan Grugan and McBrearty (free) all quickly pointed to stretch the winners four clear again.
St Mary’s kept plugging away in a fractious finish which led to a few skirmishes, but McBrearty and Richard Donnelly pointed either side of a McKernan effort to keep them at bay.
They did fashion a late chance in a goalmouth scramble, but Fox got down to his right to make a superb save, ensuring Ulster University will feature in their own Sigerson weekend.
Ulster University: S Fox; R Johnston, R McNamee (0-1), K Clarke; R McHugh, F Burns (0-2), S Sheridan; N McKeever, M Argue; C Grugan (0-1), E Rafferty (0-1 45’), R McAnespie (0-1); P McBrearty (0-5, 0-3free, 0-1 line ball), K Hughes (0-1), E Regan; Subs: R Donnelly (0-2) for Rafferty (13), D Savage for S Sheridan (50), S Heavron for Regan (55); Black card replacements: M Johnston for N McKeever (19), G McKinless for F Burns (55).
St Mary’s: R Burns; A McKay, D McBride, P McAleer; H Loughran, N McParland, C Byrne; P Carragher, K McKernan (0-2); A Nugent, K McGeary, C Meyler; P McBride, M Fitzpatrick, R O’Neill (0-2f); Subs: C McCann for Nugent (24), J Johnston (1-2) for Fitzpatrick (HT), N Toner for R O’Neill, D Kavanagh for P McBride (51), J Grugan for Byrne (56); Black card replacement: R Johnston for A McKay (35).
Referee: B Cassidy (Bellaghy).