Ethan Rafferty swings it as Ulster University see off Maynooth
TWO mighty swings of Ethan Rafferty’s left boot late in the game eventually saw Ulster University edge past a dogged Maynooth University at Jordanstown to book their place in next week’s Ryan Cup semi-finals.
The Armagh ace stepped up to the plate in the second half - which UU began trailing by four points - with Rafferty using the considerable breeze to fire over three points from play and another four frees.
But it was his cool at the finish which mattered most. Having battled back into the game, Niall Madine’s second half goal gave Martin McHugh’s men the lead and they were ahead by three with 10 minutes on the clock.
However, three scores in-a-row from the impressive Henry Walsh, Ryan O’Rourke and Oisín Shields tied it up, with the prospect of extra-time looming large. But up stepped Rafferty.
As the game entered added time, he swung over from way out on the left before sealing the deal with a curling effort from the other side of the pitch less than a minute later to set up a semi-final showdown next Thursday with the winner of Monday’s meeting between University College Dublin and IT Tralee.
Donegal star Patrick McBrearty is expected to come back into the starting 15 for that game after returning from holiday, but his Tir Chonaill team-mates Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh and Eoin McHugh, the Monaghan pair of Kieran Hughes and Ryan McAnespie and Tyrone full-back Ronan McNamee are unlikely to feature until next year.
Sean Fox and Mark Bradley are still involved in Killyclogher’s Ulster Club SFC campaign and aren’t expected to feature in college colours again this year. But UU boss McHugh preferred to focus on the men who did line out yesterday and got the job done, rather than those who didn’t.
He said: “We’ve shown great character, that’s the great thing that has come out of this whole competition. We’re never beaten.
“I thought Eoin Donnelly turned the game for us, it was great to see. He turned the game when we needed people to stand up. That’s what we need - leaders. Ethan Rafferty kicked some fabulous points when we needed him to kick them. People stood up when it mattered.”
It was a disappointing day for Maynooth though, especially considering they recovered from going 1-1 down inside four minutes - Thomas Clarke grabbing the UU goal - to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
Majors from Daniel Mimnah and O’Rourke helped them to a four-point half-time lead but the Leinster men only scored two points in the 20 minutes after the break compared to 1-6 from UU during the same period. Madine bagged the crucial goal after 49 minutes, rising high to catch and turn smartly after a superb ball into the square from Terence O’Brien.
Losing so late in a game is never easy and Maynooth boss Johnny Doyle admitted it was a bitter pill to swallow: “We probably tired a bit, playing into a stiff wind, taking the wrong options and that happens when concentration drops,” said the former Kildare forward.
“In fairness to Jordanstown, they punished us by kicking some fantastic scores in the second half. We’re a little bit disappointed, we were in a good position at half-time and maybe if we’d sneaked another goal in the second half, who knows?
“But unfortunately, it went the opposite way.”