St Mary's fall just short as UCC claim Sigerson Cup honours

UCC players celebrate a first Sigerson success in five years Picture by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
UCC players celebrate a first Sigerson success in five years Picture by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile UCC players celebrate a first Sigerson success in five years Picture by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup final: St Mary's University College, Belfast 1-9 University College, Cork 0-16

FOURTEEN-MAN ST Mary’s were unable to repeat their 2017 Sigerson final heroics last night as they lost 0-16 to 1-9 to University College, Cork at O’Moore Park.

The Belfast side were right in the mix heading into the final quarter but the loss of the influential Aaron Boyle to yellow and black cards in quick succession was a real blow to their hopes.

UCC were the better side over the course of the game, though, as the Cork college lifted the title for the first time since 2014.

They entered the game as strong favourites but once again St Mary’s paid little attention to the odds with Jarlath Og Burns continuing his good form with a fine display in midfield.

When it came down to it, though, UCC possessed just a small bit more quality in the forward line, which ultimately was the deciding factor.

St Mary’s will be frustrated but proud with the manner of this performance as the Belfast college defended well in numbers and the game was very even up until the final stages.

UCC had the better players without question, though, and Sean O’Shea was majestic, the Kerry star registering 0-7 over the course of the game in what was a fantastic individual performance.

It was St Mary’s who opened the scoring courtesy of Shane McGuigan’s effort in the opening minute.

Team captain Stephen McConville doubled his side’s advantage with a short-range free before Padraig Clifford responded with UCC’s first score of the night.

St Mary’s opted to operate with Cathair McKinney as a permanent sweeper in order to frustrate UCC, but a placed ball effort from the excellent O’Shea levelled matters.

Points from Graham O’Sullivan and Padraig Lucey gave the Cork college a two-point lead, but the Ulster side then registered the game’s only goal courtesy of Moy’s Ryan Coleman.

Coleman hit a speculative ball into the forward line which somehow beat the goalkeeper and ended up in the back of the net with McGuigan playing his part too.

O’Shea responded with a free for UCC to level proceedings before McConville restored his side’s advantage.

An outstanding effort from O’Shea brought the teams level again but St Mary’s were opting to bring 15 players behind the ball at times, which made life very difficult for the UCC forward line.

Cork corner-back Graham O’Sullivan gave his side the lead with an excellent effort and two further scores from O’Shea gave UCC a 0-9 to 1-3 lead at the interval.

It was O’Shea who opened the second half scoring with a short-range free which was cancelled out by a score from St Mary’s corner-back Miceal Rooney.

McGuigan and Cian Kiely then traded scores before an excellent effort from Ryan McCusker reduced the deficit to two points.

The gap had been down to one point before St Mary’s were dealt a major blow when Boyle was sent off to leave his side a man down heading into the final quarter.

An excellent effort from McGuigan brought his side level before it was cancelled out by a fabulous strike from O’Shea.

Three successive points increased UCC’s lead to three points and at this stage momentum was with the Cork college and they were in a great position to close out the match.

A great score from McGuigan reduced the deficit to three but UCC held on to lift the trophy with a late point from Conal O’Hainifin proving the icing on the cake.

It was a disappointing end for Gavin McGilly’s side but they will take heart from another campaign where they showed their battling qualities against more lauded opposition.

St Mary’s: M Reid; L Rafferty, C Dillon, M Rooney (0-1); C Byrne, R McCusker (0-1), A Duffy; J Og Burns, L Devlin; S McConville (0-3f), S McGuigan (0-4, 0-1f), A Boyle; N Toner, R Coleman (1-0), C McKinney

Subs: D McKinless for Byrne (53)

Red card: Boyle (44)

UCC: M White; M Flood, K Flahive, G O’Sullivan (0-2); D O’Brien, B Begley, C Kiely (0-1); P Lucey (0-1), J Kennedy; P Clifford (0-2), S O’Shea (0-7, 0-5 frees), C Horgan; C Geaney, K Spillane, E Courtney.

Subs: D Shaw for Horgan (ht) J Naughton (0-1) for Courtney (52), E Finnerty for Spillane (52), G Murphy (0-1) for Geaney, C O’Hainifin (0-1) for O’Brien (60)

Yellow card: Kennedy (34)

Referee: D Gough (Meath)