UCC 0-18 DCU 0-17
IT'S hard to imagine a more perfect way to win a Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final, as Mark Coleman’s sideline cut in the fifth minute of added-time clinched victory for defending champions UCC after an epic tussle with hosts DCU.
There seemed to be no hope of avoiding extra-time at the DCU Sportsgrounds and none of the spectators, players or management wanted that outcome, such were the shocking weather conditions as Storm Ciara battered North Dublin, but Coleman’s magical strike straight into that gale finally separated these sides.
The teams were level at 0-11 each at half-time, a scoreline that flattered UCC following some very poor shooting from DCU, but armed with Rory O’Connor’s excellent free taking DCU had worked their way into a four-point lead by the 45th minute.
With five minutes still to go that lead had only been halved, but scores from UCC’s outstanding substitute Neil Montgomery and Mark Kehoe levelled matters by the end of normal time. Adrian Mullen missed from distance for DCU, but Coleman set up a spot in the final on Wednesday against DJ Carey’s IT Carlow with his miracle shot from the sideline.
As it did in the opening game at the DCU Sportsgrounds the wind caused huge problems for both sides, but in the second game of the day the heavy rain added an extra layer of difficulty for the players.
In that first half DCU hit nine wides – six of those came in the first 10 minutes – while it appeared as if UCC’s bright start would see them scorch clear.
Darragh Fitzgibbon slotted the opening point for UCC inside the first 30 seconds, but that score was quickly cancelled out by Rory O’Connor at the other end.
However the next four points all were scored by UCC as they punished DCU’s wastage – Kingston started that run while a trio of Shane Conway points pushed UCC well clear.
Shane Kingston was the fulcrum of the UCC attack and he caused massive problems for DCU full-back Paddy Smyth, but DCU goalkeeper Oisin Foley kept his side in touch with great saves to deny Kingston and Fitzgibbon.
A point from Kingston had UCC 0-9 to 0-3 ahead after 20 minutes, but the rest of the first half belonged to DCU as O’Connor’s frees and points from Darren and Adrian Mullen meant it was 0-11 each at the break.
With playing conditions deteriorating it was always likely that free taking would play a huge part in the second half, and UCC didn’t help themselves with some needless fouling.
Five frees from O’Connor saw DCU move well clear in the early stages of the second half, although a great conversion from Conway from wide on the left gave UCC some hope.
However scoring chances were hard to come by and to convert, and it wasn’t until 11 minutes from time that Montgomery scored the first point from open play in the second period.
He had only been introduced five minutes earlier and after winning a key free that Conway scored, the Waterford man made his own mark.
Donal Burke looked to have settled DCU with a point from the left.
Then Montgomery landed a brilliant score from the same side and Mark Kehoe levelled matters as time ticked by, which gave Coleman the chance to win it for UCC, which he somehow managed.
Scorers for UCC: S. Conway (0-7 f) 0-8; S. Kingston 0-3; N. Montgomery 0-2; D. Fitzgibbon, R. O’Flynn, M. O’Halloran, M. Kehoe, M. Coleman (sl) 0-1 each.
DCU: R. O’Connor (0-10 f) 0-11; J. Bergin 0-2; D. Burke, J. Burke, A. Mullen, D Mullen 0-1 each.
UCC: S. Hurley; K. O’Dwyer, R. Downey, D. Lowney; P. Cadell, P. O’Loughlin, D. Griffin; M. Coleman, N. O’Leary; R. O’Flynn, S. Conway, C. Boylan; D. Fitzgibbon, M. Kehoe, S. Kingston.
Subs: M. O’Halloran for Griffin (39); N. Montgomery for Boylan (44); B. Sheehan for O’Flynn (52); A. Casey for Fitzgibbon (63).
DCU: O. Foley; C. Firman, P. Smyth, C. Burke; L. Gannon, B. Ryan, E. Shefflin; D. Reck, R. McBride; J. Donnelly, J. Burke, R. O’Connor; J. Bergin, J. Ryan, D. Burke.
Subs: D. Mullen for Shefflin (24); A. Mullen for J Ryan (26); F. Whitely for J Burke (52); F. MacGibb for Bergin (61).
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).