NUI Maynooth 1-8
UCC were undone by a late scoring surge from NUI Maynooth in the final of the Higher Education Freshers A Football League at the Mardyke on Tuesday night.
It looked good for the Cork students, when the hard-working Darragh O’Mahony from Ballincollig, one of several county U20 players on view on both sides, availed of good approach play by centre-back Dara O’Callaghan from Kilcummin to land a super point from distance five minutes from the end of regulation time.
The inspirational score nudged College two points in front midway between Maynooth’s Shane Walsh spell in the sin bin following his 50th minute black card, but the 14-men dug deep to drag up extra reserves of energy to turn the game on its head once again.
Meath full-forward Eoghan Freyne was a threat throughout and he instigated a courageous fight-back with an uplifting point almost immediately to make it a one-point game with the clock ticking towards the hour.
Then, the sides were tied for only the third time, when centre-back Mark Gibbons surged forward to land the equaliser, 2-4 to 1-7, and extra-time looked inevitable only for Maynooth to harbour other ideas.
On Walsh’s return for 15 against 15 and a minute into stoppage time, the visitors pounced for the winner, Freyne again emerging as their hero with a super point from an acute angle to break College hearts.
The final whistle sounded moments later as the home side tried manfully to engineer a move to put themselves in a position to force a levelling score of their own, but it wasn’t to be.
The first-half was typically cagey with both teams withdrawing players behind the ball the moment there was any hint of a threat as the interval score line of 1-2 to 0-3 for UCC accurately reflects.
O’Mahony opened the scoring before Maynooth replied with a Mark Swords ‘mark’ and then Freyne showed his class with an exquisite left foot score followed by a third point from Walsh, 0-3 to 0-1 after 21 minutes.
College, though, finish the half with a flourish. Templenoe’s Aidan Crowley equalised with a fine effort and then they prised open the Maynooth defence with a swift turn of foot, Peadar O’Rourke from Carbety Rangers setting up Cian Foley from Kilcummin who crashed home a super goal.
Within four minutes of the resumption, though, Maynooth cancelled it out with a Freyne goal after home keeper Brian McCarthy from Firies spilled Swords’s dangerous high ball.
Towering midfielder Conor Gray made it 1-4 to 1-2 only for the game to swing again, Hugh O’Connor from Newmarket pointing sweetly before his dropping shot was mishandled by visiting keeper Mikey O’Toole for UCC’s second goal, 2-3 to 1-4 entering that dramatic closing quarter.
It was a disappointing end to another wise successful campaign for College, who qualified with two narrow group wins over MTU Cork Campus and UL, winning by 0-11 to 1-7 and 4-11 to 5-10 respectively to progress to the knock-out stage.
There, they also prevailed in two more closely-fought encounters, denying NUG on their own patch by 3-10 to 2-11 before being involved in a low-scoring semi-final with UCD.
Scorers for UCC: H O’Connor 1-1, C Foley 1-0, D O’Mahony 0-2, A Crowley 0-1.
Scorers for Maynooth: E Freyne 1-3, D Swords 0-1 ‘mark’, C Gray, H Plunkett, M Gibbons and S Walsh 0-1 each.
UCC: B McCarthy (Firies); J O’Driscoll (Valley Rovers), captain, J Nagle (Austin Stacks), D Murray (Glanmire); T O’Mahony (Castlehaven), D O’Callaghan (Kilcummin), C Kenneally (Clonakilty); R Minihane (Castlehaven), E de Burca (St Michael’s); D O’Mahony (Ballincollig), C Foley (Kilcummin), H Ahearne (Ballincollig); P O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), H O’Connor (Newmarket), A Crowley (Templenoe).
Sub: J Kissane (Austin Stacks) for de Burca 35.
MAYNOOTH: M O’Toole (Blessington); B O’Halloran (Ballivor, Meath), T McPhillips (Latton, Monaghan), E Wynne (St Bride’s, Louth); C Daly (Kinnegad), M Gibbons (Kilcock), E Morrissey (Monasterevin); C Gray (Dunshaughlin), S Walsh (Oran, Roscommon); D O’Beirne (Shannon Gaels, Roscommon), H Philpott (Tullamore), C Casey (Gowna, Cavan); D Swords (Caragh, Kildare), E Frayne (Summerhill), C McArdle (St Bride’s).
Subs: C O’Connor (Dunshaughlin) for Morrissey and S Leech (Killucan) for McArdle 35, S Hever (Maynooth) for O’Beirne 43.
Referee: S Lonergan (Tipperary).