UCC's Sigerson Cup ambitions stand on the brink in Belfield this evening

It's a must-win game for Billy Morgan's side against the most successful university in the competition
UCC's Sigerson Cup ambitions stand on the brink in Belfield this evening

Austin Stacks' Dylan Casey, scoring a point despite the attentions of Alan O'Connor of St. Finbarrs, returns for UCC in the Sigerson Cup this evening. ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo.

BETWEEN them they’ve won 57 Sigerson Cup titles but it will be the end of the road for either UCC or UCD when they meet in a must-win round 2 tie at Belfield this evening at 6pm.

They’re the leading universities in the roll-of-honour with the Dublin students leading the way with 34 and their Cork equivalent in second spot on 23.

The pair lost their opening round games last week, UCC going down to their neighbours MTU Cork Campus by 0-15 to 0-13 while UCD went under to the MTU Kerry Campus by 1-13 to 0-11 in Tralee.

The beauty of the Sigerson is that it brings together players from other counties and clubs who’d normally be on opposite sides to proudly wear a college jersey steeped in tradition.

This is particularly true in the case of UCC because a quartet of players who were colliding into one another in Sunday’s Munster club final will now be united for the common cause.

Champions St Finbarr’s are represented by Brian Hayes and Cillian Myers-Murray while the vanquished, Austin Stacks, also have a couple of players involved, defender Dylan Casey, who skippered the Kerry champions, and wing-forward Michael O’Gara.

They all sat out the defeat by MTU Cork but are available again to manager Billy Morgan, who can also call on Kerry midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor, who scored a goal for his club Na Gaeil in their 6-15 to 1-12 win over Clare’s Corofin in the intermediate final.

Accordingly, College expect to field a much stronger side with plenty of options off the bench for what is anticipated to be a closely fought affair.

They found themselves chasing the game last week after falling 0-8 to 0-4 down at the interval and that deficit extended to eight points at one stage before College mounted a revival, twice coming to within a point of their opponents who held on for a famous victory.

Casey’s presence will add steel to a defence including Briain Murphy (Nemo Rangers) while a possible Brian Hartnett (Douglas)-O’Connor midfield partnership looks promising.

Hayes, last year’s Cork U20 Munster winning captain, showing no ill effects from a recent hamstring injury by scoring 0-3 against Stacks with his ’Barr’s colleague contributing 1-1.

Finding places in the starting 15 is set to occupy the attentions of the College management because there are sure to be disappointed students at not getting one of those 10-15 numbered shirts in particular.

Dingle’s Conor Geaney captains the side from full-forward, flanked either side by in-form Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers) and Sean O’Connor (Clonmel Commercials).

Outside them, Colm O’Callaghan (Eire Og), Ronan Dalton (Nemo Rangers) and Fionn Herlihy (Dohenys) started the last night so you can see the selection issues for College, who won’t have the injured Jack Murphy (Eire Og), close to returning from injury.

By a strange co-incidence UCD also found themselves trailing by 0-8 to 0-4 at half-time against MTU Kerry Campus and they were still four points adift at the second water break, 0-11 to 0-7.

Westmeath’s Ray Connellan was the pick of their bunch up front and his scores left a goal separating the teams entering the closing stages only for the Kerry students to score a second goal and end the game as a contest.

UCD have Dublin keeper Evan Comerford between the posts and his re-starts are sure to be top notch while Monaghan’s Ryan O’Toole was centre-back in Tralee with former Dublin U20 midfielder Peadar O Cofaigh-Byrne joining Down’s Aaron McClements in the centre of the pitch.

Apart from Connellan in attack, UCD also had Roscommon’s Daire Cregg and Fiachra Clifford (Kerry) in the inside line.

Home advantage is bound to be a factor and UCD are on their own patch because the last meeting between the two historic universities was played at the Mardyke.

The rules this year offer beaten first round losers a backdoor route and it’s the same for those teams who won their opening round games but lose their second games.

Other first round winners included UL, NUIG, St Mary’s, Belfast, Letterkenny IT, and DCU Dochas Eireann while Queens received a bye.

At stake are places in round 3, the round before the quarter-finals.

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