St Mary's University College, Belfast face tough Sigerson Cup test in Dublin
Sigerson Cup quarter-final: Dublin City University v St. Mary’s University College (today, 2pm, DCU Sportsgrounds)
IT may be just one step to the Sigerson weekend in Mayo, but it’s a considerable length of a step that St Mary’s must negotiate this afternoon.
DCU are aiming to reach their third straight decider in the competition, having dramatically claimed the title in 2015 before losing out to city rivals UCD in last year’s final at Jordanstown.
They may have lost some of the riches of last year such as Davy Byrne, Conor Moynagh, Michael Quinn and Stephen Attride, but Niall Moyna still has a team well equipped to push close to another title.
Their opening round win over Queen’s at the Dub was comfortable in the extreme, despite starting without Roscommon duo Enda Smith (who came on) and Ultan Harney, Stephen O’Brien (Tipperary) or Shane Carthy (Dublin).
It took them 15 minutes to warm to the game and they led by just 0-6 to 0-2 at half-time, but they ran out convincing 3-10 to 0-3 winners as they revelled in the space left for the counter-attack once they had raised the first green flag.
Paddy Tally will take his side south with hope, though. It is a decent unit that he has built up and they don’t have to delve too far into their past for a near miss against DCU.
They met at this stage two years ago, when the Ranch led by five points at half-time and their grip only loosened when they were reduced to 14 men after Ryan Johnston was harshly sent off.
DCU needed extra-time to get across the line at St Genevieve’s before going on to win the competition by beating UCC, also after two extra periods.
Only seven of the players involved on both sides that day will be in action at the Sportsgrounds this afternoon, with one of them, Tyrone’s Conall McCann hopeful of starting after making a big impact off the bench against NUIG last week.
“Generally, it’s a very, very hard place to go to and win,” said St Mary’s boss Paddy Tally.
“They’ve an excellent record at home in Sigerson games. As regards challenges, it’s as tough as they come.”
Despite reaching the Ryan Cup final pre-Christmas, in which they took Sigerson favourites Ulster University to extra-time, Moyna attempted to play down DCU’s strength after the win over Queen’s by labelling his team as a new selection laced with last year’s Freshers.
That would be no weakness in itself, given the quality of that side and the magnificent display they turned in against UCD in the Freshers final last year, but Tally wasn’t buying their perceived inexperience.
“They’re very strong, the team I saw against Queen’s and some of the players that didn’t play. There’d be a few Freshers playing but I can’t imagine there’d be too many.
“Enda Smith and Ultan Harney both have to come in, Patrick Durcan, James Durcan and Diarmuid O’Connor – they’ve a host of very experienced inter-county footballers. They’re far from Freshers!”
It was Kevin Feely who particularly caught the eye last year at Jordanstown and he will be a sizeable roadblock to St Mary’s attacking plans at the heart of the DCU defence.
The Ulster involvement in the home squad includes Donegal duo Caolan McGonagle and Hugh McFadden, as well as Monaghan’s Barry Kerr and James Mealiff, and Cavan duo Thomas Galligan and Aaron Farrelly.
St Mary’s are expecting to travel with a full squad and will look to Cathal McShane to do the damage in attack, with Kevin McKernan and Conor Meyler likely to play key roles from deeper. Pomeroy’s Kieran McGeary should also be available again following his club’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat last week.
Armagh duo Oisin O’Neill and Aaron McKay impressed in the defeat of NUI Galway last week but it will require a huge performance from St Mary’s if they are to spend tomorrow night looking for Sigerson weekend accommodation.
Shane Mannion (Roscommon), Enda Smith (Dublin), Daniel O’Neill (Meath), Seamus Lavin (Meath), Barry Kerr (Monaghan), Eoghan Smyth (Dublin), Kevin Feely (Kildare), Cian Breheny (Sligo), Caolan McGonagle (Donegal), Hugh McFadden (Donegal), Diarmuid O’Connor (Mayo), Mark Plunkett (Leitrim), Eanna O’Conchuir (Kerry), James Durcan (Mayo), Niall Murphy (Sligo), Aaron Farrelly (Cavan), Ryan Burns (Louth), Ciaran Boylan (Meath), Patrick Durcan (Mayo), James Mealiff (Monaghan), David Neary (Roscommon), Johnny McGuigan (Monaghan), Stephen O’Brien (Tipperary), Thomas Galligan (Cavan), Ultan Harney (Roscommon), Shane Carthy (Dublin), Shehroz Akram (Mayo), Tom Lahiffe (Dublin), Enda Smith (Roscommon), David Mannix (Kerry)
St Mary’s squad
Mark Reid (Down), Jack Hannigan (Antrim), Aaron McKay (Armagh), Kyle Mallon (Down), Colm Byrne (Tyrone), Micheal O’Hare (Down), Conor Meyler (Tyrone), Diarmuid McConville (Armagh), Oisin O’Neill (Armagh), Ciaran Corrigan (Fermanagh), Joe Colton (Tyrone), Stephen McConville (Tyrone), Kevin McKernan (Down), Matthew Fitzpatrick (Antrim), Cathal McShane (Tyrone), Patrick Sweeney (Antrim), Conall McCann (Tyrone), Brian Óg McGilligan (Derry), Ruairi Mooney (Derry), Niall Toner (Derry), Ciaran Mac Iomhair (Armagh), Conor Convery (Derry), Darragh Kavanagh (Tyrone), Corey Quinn (Mayo), Pearse Óg McCrickard (Down), Kieran McGeary (Pomeroy), Aidan Nugent (Armagh), Ryan McNulty (Antrim), Damien Ball (Tyrone), Conor Mallon (Antrim), Aidan McKernan (Down)