St Mary's and UCC set up Sigerson Cup final clash

Caolan Dillon, left, and Liam Rafferty celebrate St Mary's Sigerson Cup semi-final win over UCD.<br /> Picture by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Caolan Dillon, left, and Liam Rafferty celebrate St Mary's Sigerson Cup semi-final win over UCD.
Picture by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup semi-finals    -  St Mary’s University College, Belfast 0-10 University College Dublin 0-7

ST Mary’s are through to the final of the Sigerson Cup after a trojan-like display saw them overcome the challenge of UCD on Saturday afternoon in Mallow.

Winners of the competition themselves in 2017, the Belfast college will now have the opportunity to secure the silverware once more when they take on UCC in Wednesday evening’s decider at Parnell Park.

St Mary’s have a real sense of steely determination about them. For a college of their size, it really is a sensational achievement to get into the final now for the second time in three years.

They are a college which seem to thrive off the status of the underdog and seem to have knack of producing big displays and results.

UCD had Dublin star Con O’Callaghan among their troops. Last Saturday he scored a goal against Kerry in Tralee during Dublin’s NFL Division One clash with the Kingdom.

On this Saturday afternoon in Mallow, however, he was unable to contribute to the scoreboard. That was a sheer testament to the excellent organisational work which was undertaken by St Mary’s.

This UCD side was highly-rated and has a number of talented footballers in their ranks. Many had tipped UCD as the favourites to win this competition when the Sigerson tournament commenced back in January.

But they were to find St Mary’s very much a very tough nut to crack and it took the Dubliners close to 40 minutes to register their opening score of the afternoon.

That was a testament to the work rate which was being produced by St Mary’s on and off the ball.

These teams met in the Sigerson Cup decider 2017. On that day it was St Mary’s that came out on top.

The St Mary’s captain for that winning campaign was Conor Meyler, who two years later was lining out for UCD.

In what were generally quite windy conditions, the early exchanges were tight and closely contested.

The opening score of the game arrived in the 10th minute of play. It came from Stephen McConville for St Mary’s, who was accurate from a placed ball effort.

McConville would have a productive afternoon as things would turn out on the scoreboard. Just shy of the quarter of an hour mark, he was to slot over another a brace of frees.

With the strong breeze continuing to blow, Liam Rafferty converted with what was a fine score from around the 45-yard line.

Just prior to the break, he was outdone by team-mate Jarlath Og Burns, who scored with a sensational score from all of 50 yards out.

At half-time it was St Mary’s who led 0-7 to UCD’s 0-0. The scoreline painted a clear picture at the break. It was a half which saw everything fall into place for the Belfast teacher training college.

Upon the resumption, UCD knew they had a produce a huge second half to turn the game on its head.

A point from Barry Dan O’Sullivan, along with a free by Evan O’Carroll, saw UCD try to commence that fightback.

By the 46th minute, after Peter Healy of Glengormley club St Enda’s pointed for another UCD score, they were trailing 0-7 to 0-3.

Showing their character and grit to come out on top, St Mary’s responded well.

McConville was on hand to get another point, which saw him impressively split the posts after what a well-worked team move.

Laois full-forward O’Carroll would respond with a free for UCD. But St Mary’s had an answer for them once more.

Niall Toner went on a mazy run forward and set up Slaughtneil man Shane McGuigan who won a free. McConville once again duly converted.

UCD kept fighting right up until the very end and through a brace of scores, they were just behind and trailing 0-9 to 0-6 heading into second half stoppage time.

But for one final time in the contest, St Mary’s were to dig deep into the well of their resilience and a fisted point by Ryan Coleman was enough to put the icing on top of the cake for what was a victory greeted with wild full-time celebrations.

St Mary’s: M Reid; L Rafferty (0-1), C Dillon, M Rooney; C Byrne, R McSherry, A Duffy; J Og Burns (0-1), L Devlin; S McConville (0-6, 0-4 frees), S McGuigan, A Boyle; N Toner, R Coleman (0-2), C McKinney.

Subs: J Hannigan for Byrne (49).

UCD: T O’Brien; B Byrne, M Dempsey, P Healy (0-1); M Breen, C O’Shea, C O’Connor (0-1); D Gavin, S Coen; C Meyler, C McCarthy, L Fortune; C O’Callaghan, E O’Carroll (0-3 frees), B McGinn.

Subs: BD O’Sullivan (0-1) for Breen (15), B O’Seanacháin for McGinn (45), D Kennedy (0-1) for Fortune (48).

Black card: C Meyler (22), replaced by G Walsh.

Referee: J Bermingham (Cork)

University College Cork 4-9 National University of Ireland Galway 1-15

UCC overcame the challenge of NUIG in Mallow yesterday to set up a Sigerson Cup final clash with clash with St Mary’s.

The cutting edge in front of goal was to prove crucial for the Cork side, with Kerry star Sean O’Shea most certainly bringing his shooting boots.

NUIG ensured this was a gripping encounter to watch right throughout.

In the end, UCC showed their resilience and also their willingness to win to come out on top.

O’Shea netted with a brace of goals in the opening few minutes of the contest. He got his first through a composed finish, while adding to that moments later when he showed great reactions to get on the end of an attempted point by Killian Spillane which was underhit.

NUIG, though, responded well and pointed through efforts from Michael Daly and Jack Robinson.

A fine point from a wide angle from Peter Cooke levelled the game up, while NUIG also pointed through another impressive effort from Glenavy’s Owen Gallagher.

NUIG could have been in an even better position, had they converted a number of scoring chances.

But Conor Geaney pointed for UCC just before the break to edge his side in front 2-3 to 0-8 at half-time.

NUIG had a perfect second half start when John Maher blasted the ball into the roof of the net.

Their celebrations did not lost too long, however, as Eimhin Courtney netted with a cool finish for UCC.

They went on to build a five-point lead, but NUIG were not going to go away and reduced the gap to just a single point, with Michael Daly slotting over a number of scores from frees.

But Geaney would put the finishing touches to a well-worked UCC move to ease the pressure.

As they did throughout, NUIG kept fighting right up until the very end. But UCC were professional and saw the game out to a successful conclusion.

UCC did have to withstand late pressure when NUIG were awarded a close-in free which was taken by Kieran Molloy to Ruairi Greene but UCC’s packed goalmouth forced his effort out wide, and they held on to win by three.

It promises to be a very exciting week for the Cork college generally, as they will contest both the Fitzgibbon Cup and Sigerson Cup finals.

UCC: M White; M Flood, K Flahive, G O’Sullivan; J McEntee, B Begley, C Kiely; P Lucey, J Kennedy; P Clifford (0-1), S O’Shea (2-3, 0-2 frees), C Horgan; C Geaney (1-4, 0-1 free), K Spillane, E Courtney (1-1).

Subs: D O’Brien for McEntee (23), R Buckley for Horgan (39), C O’Hainifin for Kiely (55), G Murphy for Spillane (57), R Forde for O’Sullivan (61)

NUIG: A Brady; S Brennan, S Mulkerrin, K McDonnell; K Molloy, R Greene, P O’Donnell; P Cooke (0-1), C Darcy; N Mullen (0-1), E Tierney, J Maher (1-0); R Finnerty (0-1 free), J Robinson (0-3), M Daly (0-7 frees).

Subs: O Gallagher (0-1) for O’Donnell (23), J Daly (0-1 free) for Finnerty (39), F Ó Laoi for Maher (46), E McGrath for Brennan (56).

Black card: J Robinson (47), replaced by G Canavan.

Referee: D O’Mahony (Tipperary)