GAA Football

UCD cruise into Sigerson weekend against out-of-sorts Ulster University

UCD's Michael Fitzsimmons keeps possession away from UU's Mark Bradley during yesterday's Sigerson Cup quarter-final Picture by Hugh Russell
Brendan Crossan in Jordanstown

The Sigerson Cup quarter-final: Ulster University 0-9 University College Dublin 1-18

AS Martin McHugh solemnly made his way from the pitch to the changing rooms in Jordanstown, he was already talking in past tense.

Yesterday’s chastening 12-point defeat to Sigerson Cup holders UCD was almost certainly his final act as Ulster University manager.

The Ulstermen’s hopes of reaching the competition’s prestigious weekend in Mayo later this month were well and truly extinguished soon after the re-start.

The Dublin-based students rampaged through the Ulster University defence at will in the second half, with the irrepressible Conor McCarthy grabbing the only goal of the game in the 54th minute.

“I gave it my best shot,” said a deflated McHugh afterwards.

“I was up three times a week from home. After this year I won’t be doing much more management at any level because it’s tough and tiresome.

“I’m disappointed for the lads. The players gave me great effort and commitment and hopefully these lads will do well with their counties and their clubs down the road.

“I knew UCD were an exceptional side, a brilliant side and they showed what they’re about.

“It’ll take a very good team to beat them. We couldn’t get to grips with them in the second half.”

Three players saw red in an ill-tempered second half. Derry’s Gareth McKinless picked up a second yellow card in the 45th minute after an off-the-ball exchange with Dublin’s Colm Basquel.

The UCD full-forward received a straight red card for his role in the altercation.

And with three minutes of normal time remaining, Tyrone defender Ronan McNamee lost his cool after striking UCD’s tormentor-in-chief Conor McCarthy.

Each dismissal issued by Armagh referee Padraig Hughes was entirely justified.

After trailing 0-8 to 0-7 at the interval, Ulster University couldn’t live with their visitors in the second period who boasted Dublin stars Jack McCaffrey, Michael Fitzsimmons and Paul Mannion.

A Patrick McBrearty free – his fifth score of the afternoon – and a late consolation point from Rory Brennan was all the hosts could muster in an abysmal second half display.

“It was a disappointing second half,” McHugh added. “I thought we’d come out of the blocks but we didn’t.

“We tried a lot of different things – we tried dropping a sweeper back to try and give us a bit more cover, but they were very powerful and a well-drilled team.”

Put simply, there was more method and understanding in UCD ranks.

John Divilly’s men attacked in numbers throughout, while their hosts appeared to be relying on individual flair, which was in short supply.

The often-isolated McBrearty hit a couple of wonder scores in the first half and Eoin McHugh chipped in with a fantastic point after a 60-metre dash along the left flank.

But these moments were all too fleeting for the home side.

At the other end of the field, UCD ushered the ball to their danger men – McCarthy, Mannion and Andy McDonnell – and they did the rest.

McCarthy, who hit 1-2 for the victors, drew glowing praise from his manager afterwards.

“Conor has all the skills of the game,” said Divilly.

“He’s a fantastic reader of the game. He’s a real modern-day playmaker. Some people think he’s too small – I totally disagree.

“He can handle himself well; he took a lot of punishment out there today and he just got up and got on with it. Total discipline was the key for us today.”

UCD, who will face the winners of University Limerick and Dublin IT in the semi-finals on February 17, spurned three goal chances in the first half.

Ulster University ‘keeper Sean Fox denied McCarthy and McCaffrey majors while Longford’s Larry Moran hit the post before the break.

Despite the home side’s embarrassment of riches, McHugh insisted that Dublin is at a different level.

“It just shows the level Dublin are at,” he said.

“Other counties would love to have the players that they

have available to them.

“It’s probably scary from an Ulster point of view – we’d only three Ulster counties winning at the weekend [in the National League] and one of them was Fermanagh beating Down.”

UU: S Fox; G McKinless, R McNamee, M McEvoy; R McHugh, R Brennan (0-1), S Sheridan; T O’Brien, N McKeever; E McHugh (0-1), E Rafferty (0-1), F Burns; R McAnespie (0-1), P McBrearty (0-5, 0-3 frees), M Bradley Subs: E Donnelly for E Rafferty (43), M Walsh for E Donnelly (48), T Clarke for R McAnespie (53)

Yellow cards: G McKinless (18), E McHugh (36), E Rafferty (38), R McNamee (50)

Red cards: G McKinless (18 & 45), R McNamee (57, straight red)

Black cards: F Burns replaced by E Rafferty (60)

UCD: C Honan; E Murchin, M Fitzsimmons, N McInerney; C Mullally (0-1), S Coen, J McCaffrey; B O’Sullivan, J Barry (0-1); A McDonnell (0-4), C McCarthy (1-2), E Wallace (0-2); P Mannion (0-7, 0-6 frees), C Basquel, L Moran Subs: J Rossieter for N McInerney (h/t), B McGinn (0-1 free) for L Moran (h/t), T Hayes for E Murchin (54), S O’Dea for E Wallace (54), E Lowry for C McCarthy (58)

Yellow cards: L Moran (28)

Red cards: C Basquel (45)

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)

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