GAA Football

Queen's come on strong but NUIG hold on to send Belfast university out Sigerson exit door

Kieran Molloy, one of NUI Galway's best performers at The Dub last night, closes in on Queen's University's Jack McCann. Picture by Declan Roughan
Neil Loughran

Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup round two: Queen’s University, Belfast 1-7 NUI Galway 1-8

THEY recovered from a slow start to raise a gallop as the game wore on, but it wasn’t enough to stop Queen’s slipping through the Sigerson Cup exit door as they were edged out by NUI Galway last night.

A Calum O’Neill goal five minutes after the break put the Belfast students ahead for the first and only time in the game, inspiring hope of a second half surge.

Instead, though, it was the Galway college who put the boot to the pedal, the superb Peter Cook bedazzling Queen’s with four well-taken scores, two from frees, as they moved into a three point lead heading down the straight.

Queen’s finished strongly, and looked as though they could send the game into extra-time after two Conor Martin frees brought them to within a point, but it wasn’t to be as their 2019 campaign came to an end.

Considering the nature of their tight contest with Maynooth University on Sunday, it was hardly a surprise that Shane Mulholland’s men started slowly last night.

The former Down forward hit out at the “farcical” nature of this year’s Sigerson Cup scheduling earlier in the week, and it would be hard to argue given the circumstances.

They may have made a four-hour journey from the west earlier in the day, but the Galway students – who were without Tribe star Michael Daly - also had the benefit of an extra three days’ recovery from their agonising free-taking competition defeat to St Mary’s last Wednesday.

It showed early on as they moved the ball quickly and accurately while the hosts struggled to settle.

A Rob Finnerty free put the visitors ahead three minutes in before Sligo’s Nathan Mullen doubled that lead fivbe minutes later.

Queen’s, in contrast, had already kicked the first three of seven first half wides by that stage as they struggled to get a foothold.

James Smith was largely ploughing a lone furrow up top and, although they managed to get some good ball into him, the support just didn’t come quickly enough as they continued to draw a blank.

And the signs were ominous when NUIG plundered the opening goal of the game after 17 minutes, powerful midfielder Cein Darcy bursting forward on an arcing run from the Queen’s 45.

When he cut back inside and pulled the trigger from 10 yards out, his shot was brilliantly blocked by McAuley. Unfortunately for the St Enda’s man, it ricocheted straight back into the legs of Darcy and trickled into the empty net.

Daniel Guinness tapped over to get Queen’s off the mark in the 22nd minute, and they rallied well leading into half-time, scoring four of the last five points to trail by 1-3 to 0-5 at the break.

And when O’Neill rattled the Galway net five minutes into the second half, hope warmed the hands of those spread across the stand at The Dub.

It was a well worked goal too, nippy Derry corner-back Niall Keenan bursting through a sea of purple jerseys before laying off to James McMahon, who found O’Neill in acres of space and he gave Aaron Brady no chance with the finish.

Yet the NUI Galway team - managed by former Mayo footballer Maurice Sheridan - didn’t lose their heads, staying patient and working their opportunities well.

Cooke stepped up impressively, landing the next four points of the game over a 13 minute spell – though the best, on a night when real quality was at a premium, was yet to come.

Step forward Kieran Molloy. The Corofin livewire, outstanding on the night, split the posts from an acute angle to put NUI Galway 1-8 to 1-5 ahead with only seven minutes left.

Queen’s gave it plenty as they went in search of the point that would have given them a shot at extra-time, but it is NUI Galway who go on to meet Garda College in round three next Wednesday where a potential quarter-final clash with Ulster University is at stake.

Queen’s: A Hasson; C McCloskey (0-1), O Lappin, N Keenan; N Rafferty, D McKeever, J McCann, J McMahon (0-1); R Campbell, B Crealey; J McAuley, R Treanor (0-1, free), D Guinness (0-1); C O’Neill (1-1), J Smith. Subs: E Deane for Campbell (blood sub 27, reversed 30), E Deane for Crealey (39), C Martin (0-2) for Treanor (44), K Hughes for Smith (59)

Yellow cards: B Crealey (12), O Lappin (55)

NUIG:A Brady; S Brennan, S Mulkerrin, K McDonnell; K Molloy (0-2), R Greene, P O’Donnell; P Cooke (0-4, 0-2 frees), C Darcy (1-0); N Mullen (0-1), B Donovan, E Tierney; R Finnerty (0-1, free), J Robinson, O Gallagher. Subs: J Maher for Donovan (HT), G Canavan for Finnerty (35), K Quinn for Robinson (50)

Yellow cards: K Molloy (15), J Robinson (42), P Cooke (51)

Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)

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