UCC 0-11 DCU 1-14
LEAGUE winners UCC were given a timely reminder of the difficulty in adding the Freshers football championship to their honours' list at the Mardyke.
Although both College and DCU had already qualified for the quarter-finals next month, it still resulted in a serious game of ball with the Dublin students all-the-way winners.
Fielding players from eight counties and apparently missing a Mayo and Dublin contingent, too, DCU earned top slot in the group and a home tie in the knock-out phase with an impressive display.
UCC, hampered by club action in recent days, must hit the road with NUIG their likely destination at the start of March.
The critical period came in the run-in to the interval and the third quarter, when the visitors gained a vice-like grip of proceedings to forge a commanding position.
The home side trailed only by two points, 1-5 to 0-6, after 28 minutes, but fell three more points behind as DCU benefitted from patient build-up play to send players into space on the left.
Wing-back Mark Cully and Karl Hartley found the range from almost identical positions before the accurate Luke Mitchell completed the opening spell's scoring to leave College 1-8 to 0-6 adrift and requiring a good start on the resumption.
Alas, it was their opponents who again had control, boosted by their formidable midfield pairing of Ulster duo, Liam Óg Murray and Padraig McGettigan.
DCU outscored College by 0-6 to 0-1 during the critical third quarter as the home students struggled against a well-drilled defence with their own rearguard under pressure from the weight of so many attacks.
Hartley set the tone in the opening minute with Mitchell firing one over from play before a Conor Russell free made it 1-10 to 0-6, but the next four scores came from DCU.
Centre-forward Jack O'Connor started the sequence and Meath-man Mitchell took over with a hat-trick of points, including one from a 'mark' after Scully picked him out with a fine cross-field pass.
At 1-14 to 0-7 in arrears, UCC could easily have downed tools and called it quits, but they held DCU scoreless for the remainder and tacked on four points of their own.
Darragh Hayes claimed two, including a 'mark', defender Brian Lynch added another before a Rian Quigley free wrapped up the scoring.
However, College's day was summed up, when Quigley, who played for Tipperary in the national league at the weekend, dragged a left-footed penalty wide of the right upright during almost seven minutes' added-on time.
DCU were determined to impose themselves from the start and kicked some glorious long-range points to lead 0-4 to 0-1 inside 10 minutes.
But, a couple of Russell frees and one from play by the captain Fionn Herlihy cut the deficit to 0-4 to 0-3 as the sides exchanged points.
Then, came an important moment, when a typical Murray surge through the heart of the College defence drew a foul and a penalty in the 22nd minute.
Mitchell stepped up to confidently stroke his effort low to the left of keeper Dylan Foley and help DCU to a deserved win.
Scorers for UCC: C Russell 0-4 (0-2 f), R Quigley 0-2 (0-1 f), D Hayes 0-2 (0-1 f, 0-1 mark), B Lynch, R O'Brien and F Herlihy 0-1 each.
DCU: L Mitchell 0-6 (0-3 f, 0-1 mark), L Óg Murray 1-1, 1-0 pen, K Hartley 0-3, M Curry, P McGettigan, J O'Connor and A Lynch 0-1 each.
UCC: D Foley (Éire Óg); E Fitzgerald (Gneeveguilla), D Bourke (Na Gael), G Lyne (Annascaul); S Desmond (Clondrohid), E Lehane (Canovee), B Lynch (Douglas); R O'Brien (Fr Casey's), M O'Gara (Austin Stacks); I Jennings (Kilmurry), F Herlihy (Dohenys, c), C Crowley (Glanmire); D Hayes (Carbery Rangers), R Quigley (Moyle Rovers), C Russell (Douglas).
Subs: E Dodd (Canovee) for Lyne injured, R Dalton (Nemo Rangers) for O'Brien, R Ó Beaglaoich (Gaeltacht) for Russell, J O'Mullane (Kilumurry) for Fitzgerald, C Nyhan (Ballinascarthy) for Crowley.
DCU: E McGuinness (Longford); R O'Mernagh (Donegal), G Nangle (Dublin), S Fitzgerald (Galway); P Hughes (Wexford), P McEniffe (Donegal, c) M Cully (Kildare); L Óg Murray (Monaghan), P McGettigan (Donegal); K Hartley (Kildare), J O'Connor (Meath), S Duignan (Sligo); J Thorpe (Dublin), A Lynch (Meath), L Mitchell (do).
Sub: S Traynor (Monaghan) for Thorpe.
Referee: J Griffin (Kerry).