GAA Football

St Mary's, Belfast clinch Sigerson success against UCD despite bad start

The St Mary's University, Belfast team celebrate with the Sigerson Cup after their win over University College, Dublin Picture by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
By Darragh Small at the Connacht Centre of Excellence

Sigerson Cup final

St Mary’s 0-13 UCD 2-6

ST Mary’s College, Belfast manager Paddy Tally said his team’s confidence never dipped as they came back from the concession of two early goals to beat reigning champions UCD and win the Sigerson Cup for the first time since 1989.

It was another mammoth fightback from the teacher training college, full of endeavour and determination.

Midfielder Oisin O’Neill led the charge, and they took an unlikely 0-9 to 2-1 lead into half-time at the Connacht Centre of Excellence in Bekan, Mayo.

Dublin All-Ireland winner Colm Basquel fired the two early goals for UCD, but Paul Mannion was their only other scorer in the first-half. And John Divilly’s side could have had no complaints as they went in trailing.

But even when the second half began there was an air of formality about UCD getting on top in the game, and using the big breeze in their favour, to storm clear and claim their 34th Sigerson Cup.

However, St Mary’s were too wise and when Cathal McShane kicked the first point of the second-half it was a huge score. St Mary’s would only score three more points, but they outclassed their opposition and always kept them at arm’s length.

Tally was thrilled for the St Mary’s players, after they repeated their heroics from the semi-finals, when UCC also scored two early goals, and he knew they could do it all along.

“They are a credit, the way they played, the way they dug down very deep. A lot of teams would have packed it in with the start we had but they done this yesterday as well,” said Tally.

“They probably knew, right we got back yesterday, we get back today if we keep our heads and we play our football and they did.”

Ballyboden, St Enda’s sharpshooter Basquel scored his goals in the first and third minutes of the game to give UCD a 2-0 to 0-0. But then St Mary’s took over and they scored nine points in a row before Mannion tagged on UCD’s first point in the 29th minute.

O’Neill scored four of those points, three of them from frees, while Conall McCann kicked two and Conor Meyler, Cathal McShane and Ciaran Corrigan also found their range.

“We looked at UCD in the first half, they only scored one point against the breeze. And apart from the two goals they wouldn’t have scored,” said Tally.

“We knew that we were better than that and we would get at least three or four points in the second half. We didn’t concede any more goals in the far side. And as the game went on we looked more comfortable.

“We looked very composed and under control. There were a few shots they had but they were all under pressure. They were kicking, the breeze didn’t really help at times, when you were under pressure with the kick.

“We had the game well measured out and thankfully it worked out for us.”

The first score of the second half was always going to be massive in terms of momentum, but most would have expected UCD to get it. However, it was McShane who doubled his tally three minutes after the interval.

UCD grew desperate in the latter stages of the game, and it was epitomised by the black card dished out to midfielder Barry O’Sullivan with three minutes of normal time remaining.

It was the sign of a tired team bereft of ideas, and St Mary’s had forced them into that scenario.

But they still only had a one-point advantage at the death, and Tally said they would have been ready for extra-time.

“We had prepared for extra-time. And if it had have come to it they were ready to go. These things you have to plant the seeds long before today.

“We build these players over time to have them play that football really to dig very deep.”

For heavy favourites UCD it was the ultimate despair. They cruised through the competition, and they got the better of a good UL side in the final four.

On paper, John Divilly’s team should have won the final, but he knew UCD had lost to the better team on the day.

“No one likes to lose any game, particularly finals. Mary’s came with a fantastic game-plan. They deserved their win,” said Divilly.

“We had lots and lots of chances in the second half to draw level or go ahead and we did not take them. If you don’t take them, you’re not going to win.

“Mary’s are a team that run at you in threes and fours and they are very hard to stop. Our mistakes, probably, cost us. Mary’s had to take their points and they kicked three big scores in the second half.

“They’ve come the hard way. They’ve beaten NUIG, DCU, UCC and UCD so it is hats off to them. They’ve thoroughly deserved it.”

St Mary’s: Reid; Mooney, McKay, Mallon; Byrne, Mac Iomhar, Meyler (0-1); McCann (0-2), O’Neill (0-4, 0-3 frees); Corrigan (0-1), McGeary (0-2, 0-1 frees), McConville; McKernan, Fitzpatrick, McShane (0-2)

Subs: Quinn (0-1) for McConville (45 mins), Hannigan for Mallon (63 mins)

Yellow cards: McKay (9mins), McKernan (28mins), Mooney (40mins), Quinn (49mins)

Black cards: none

UCD: Honan; Fitzsimons, McDaid, Murchan; Mullally, Coen, McCaffrey; O’Sullivan, Barry; McCarthy (0-2, 0-1 frees), McDonnell, Wallace (0-1); Mannion (0-1), Basquel (2-1), McGinn (0-1)

Subs: Casey for McDonnell (30 mins), Hayes for Mannion (56 mins), Moran for O’Sullivan (58 mins, black)

Yellow cards: McCaffrey (22mins), Wallace (27mins), Basquel (38mins), Fitzsimons (53mins), Mannion (55mins)

Black cards: O’Sullivan (57mins)

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

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