THE University of Limerick claimed a record 12th O’Connor Cup last weekend while UCC suffered heartbreak at the semi-final stages.
Three-time champions UCC looked set to reach the decider when Niamh Cotter’s goal 11 minutes after the restart put them four points clear, but substitute Chloe Foxe hit the net for UCD to give them hope and Andrea Murphy’s goal two minutes from time sent UCD into the Gourmet Food Parlour O’Connor Cup final for the first time since their victorious 2016 campaign.
It was the cruellest of losses for UCC, with their opponents pipping them by a point at the death..
Meanwhile UL, who had a strong Cork showing, captained by Cork senior star Eimear Scally, started the weekend in style with a very strong performance against Queens University Belfast. The Shannon Siders ran riot hitting 7-16 on their road to a sixth successive O’Connor Cup final.
UL were never put under much pressure in the final, remaining in control throughout, with goals from Mayo’s Fiona McHale and Player of the Match Hannah O’Donoghue, seeing them past UCD at Grangegorman.
UL defended rigidly, attacked at pace and showed excellent fitness levels against the wind in the second half.
Aine McDonagh kept UCD in touch with six points and substitute Chloe Foxe hit the net with a couple of minutes remaining, but UL deservedly ran out winners on a scoreline of 2-16 to 1-10.
Managed by Cork man DJ Collins, the Limerick-based panel boast an astonishing amount of talent, including Cork senior footballers Caoimhe Moore, Ashling Kelleher, and Shauna Kelly.
UL captain Eimear Scally, who kicked seven points in Saturday’s final at Grangegorman, praised the efforts of Collins’s squad.
“I think there was a few games between championship and league and it was a bit wishy-washy with us, but the last few games we have been improving,” said Scally.
“The main thing was work-rate and leadership. It was steady throughout. We really grew into the game and we put the foot down the whole time.
“We had 10 different scorers in the semi-final. I don’t know how many we got today but you can rely on everyone to take a score.”
Collins was also full of praise her side.
“To see the performance we put in was great,” said Collins. “We let ourselves down badly in the league final. We had a good look at ourselves in January and started correcting things. It didn’t go smoothly but the girls worked so hard.
“All the girls are playing inter-county so we can’t take all the credit of this. It’s about minding them, looking after them and making sure they enjoy it when they come into us.
“We knew this morning when we were in the room in the hotel that none of us would ever be in that situation together again. It changes, that’s the nature of college sport. You have to keep reinventing every year, but you have to have your values and your style of play is passed from one generation to the next.”
UCD manager Conor Barry lamented the mistakes his side made, which were punished severely.
“We had a tough semi-final against UCC and it took a lot out of us, but at the same time there was nothing short effort-wise,” said Barry.
“I think mistakes cost us the game. Full credit to UL they were so clinical when we made the mistakes. You can’t give a team that good those opportunities.”