GAA Football

Ulster University take advantage of early Limerick implosion

University of Ulster's Terrence O'Brien on a solo run as University of Limerick's Gearoid Hegarty closes in during yesterday's Sigerson Cup match in Jordanstown. Picture by Ann McManus.
From Cahair O'Kane at Jordanstown

Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup quarter-final: Ulster University 4-6 University Limerick 0-11

AFTER travelling three-quarters of the length of the country into the snowy shadow of Cave Hill, the last thing University Limerick needed was to implode inside fifteen minutes.

Whether it would have had any impact on the result is debatable, but it would certainly have helped the spectacle had centre-back Pearse Lillis not got himself sent off after four minutes.

The visitors clearly came with an intention to rough their hosts up and the wrestling matches started before a ball was thrown in, with the half-forward line Eoin McHugh, Mark Bradley and Ryan McAnespie the ones in white that felt the pinch.

But having been niggling at Bradley – with whom UU wore black armbands in solidarity after the death of his grandfather on Sunday – from the beginning, Lillis was deemed to have struck the Killyclogher man off the ball while Jordanstown were on an early attack.

Tempers threatened to boil over but it was quickly settled as the officials dealt with it, with a linesman alerting referee Noel Mooney to the Clare man’s actions, for which he was sent to the line.

Rory Brennan, who would go on to have a superb first half, had UU ahead before James Naughton landed a lovely 40-metre free into the wind at the other end after six minutes.

But by the quarter hour mark, the game was effectively over. The red card left Limerick looking completely disorganised at the back and Jordanstown punished them accordingly.

Malachy Magee, who also had a fine game, robbed the ball and sent Eoin McHugh away into space to point when a goal was perhaps on.

From the next attack, Terence O’Brien – a runner for man-of-the-match – carried superbly down the wing, attracting four different tacklers and then unselfishly popping over the top for Ryan McAnespie to fire superbly into the top corner.

Less than 30 seconds later, McAnespie could have had a second. O’Brien broke the kickout and with UL all at sea, Daire Gallagher played in the Monaghan forward, only for him to fire wide of Barry Redmond’s near post.

Still, it wasn’t long before the second goal did arrive in similar circumstances. Gareth McKinless, a hugely effective sweeper, started an attack that allowed Rory Brennan to drive. When corner-back Shane Courtney hesitated and then slipped, he allowed the younger Brennan, Lee, in behind. The pass was made, the finish dispatched, the 2-2 to 0-2 lead established.

And UU’s next score was a third goal, with Ronan McNamee making a fine mark and moving the ball early for Niall Madine. He made it stick and popped off for Rory Brennan, who used his brother’s movement to pull the last defender away before going himself and firing into the roof of the net.

McAnespie and Lee Brennan kicked further scores to leave Jordanstown 3-4 to 0-2 ahead at the break, with Limerick showing little beyond the midfield presence of Gearoid Hegarty and an odd flash from Kerry’s Denis Daly at centre-forward.

The first half ended with another flare up as Jordanstown lost the rag at Limerick’s persistent physicality, with Hegarty, Johnny Munroe and Ronan McNamee all yellow carded on the short whistle.

The cutting wind had been in the home side’s favour in the first half and it turned even more bitter, with intermittent flurries of snow making their way down from the interval onwards.

Perhaps going inside for that bit of heat helped Limerick, who started more brightly and kicked the first two scores of the new half, with Killian Sexton and Denis Daly both landing long-range efforts from play.

Hegarty moving to full-forward threatened to cause a problem but Michael McKernan shut down the first long ball and the winners quickly recognised the danger, smothering the danger with numbers thereafter.

That roused their sideline but any hopes they had were shot down completely when Daire Gallagher, playing in a deep role, started an attack that ended with a brilliant Ronan McNamee finish, low and hard across Redmond from 15 yards.

Sub Danny Tallon made an impact upon his introduction for the yellow-carded Madine, the Glen man scoring two points and getting plenty of ball through his hands.

His first made it 4-5 to 0-4, by which point the sanity of the small crowd on the top pitch at the Whiteabbey campus had to be questioned for their willingness to stand a second longer.

Killian Sexton and Gearoid Hegarty were both lucky to avoid second yellow cards for UL (though Sexton would later get his) before Tallon hit the last Jordanstown score, with all of their 4-6 coming from play.

All of the last five scores went the way of the men in maroon, three of them from Denis Daly frees, but there was little attacking spark and no real fight left in them by the time the referee called a long overdue halt.

It was a confident, comfortable Ulster University display aided by the good start, Paul Rouse’s side looking much freer than they had in the more constricted city derby with St Mary’s.

They will have a good eye on the star-studded Dublin derby between UCD and DCU this afternoon, with the winners on the Jordanstown agenda in the middle of next week.

Ulster University: S Fox; M McEvoy, M McKernan, M Magee; R Brennan (1-1), J Munroe, G McKinless; R McNamee (1-0), T O’Brien; R McAnespie (1-1), M Bradley, E McHugh (0-1); L Brennan (1-1), N Madine, D Gallagher

Subs: D Tallon (0-2) for Madine (20), C Burke for McNamee (47), C McCann for M Bradley (50), L Harney for L Brennan (54), O Murray for Magee (56), B Grant for McHugh (56)

Yellow cards: N Madine (18), J Munroe (30), R McNamee (30), M McEvoy (57)

University Limerick: B Redmond; S Courtney, L Boland, D Quinn; S Okunbor, P Lillis, C O’Dea; F O’Cunaigh, G Hegarty; J Naughton (0-3, 0-2f), D Daly (0-4, 0-3f), E O’Connor; N McDermott (0-2f), K Sexton (0-1), B O’Keefe

Subs: D Bohanan for Okunbor (26), F McDonagh for O’Connor (46), N Rabbitt (0-1) for O’Cunaigh (48), L Robinson for McDermott (53), E Lawless for Hegarty (53)

Yellow cards: K Sexton (7, 56), S Okunbor (24), G Hegarty (30)

Red cards: P Lillis (6), K Sexton (56)

Referee: N Mooney (Cavan)

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