Electric Ireland HE GAA Intermediate Football Final
University College Cork 2-7 Ulster University 0-14
Ulster University produced a lung bursting final 15 minutes of football to squeeze the life out of a good University Cork to claim the Electric Ireland HE GAA Intermediate Football title at Belfield last night.
The UCD ground was in splendid shape as both sides took the field on a bitterly cold but dry evening and it didn’t auger well for the Ulster men when their opponents struck with two goals in the opening six minutes.
Eoghan Breatnach set the ball rolling for the Muster students when he rattled the Ulster net in the 3d minute and when Fergal O’Brien added another, three minutes later it looked like being a long night for the ‘Poly’.
They refused to panic however with their defence recovering from that early onslaught to close down any further avenue to goal and slowly they began to take the game to Cork with Eoghan McDonnell opening their account from a point in the 5th minute and Dara Curran adding another with 7 minutes gone.
Ronan McKillop was starting to cause problems for the University college Cork defence with his strong running and he soloed through for a point in their next attack and further points from Liam Gray and Eoghan McDonnell had it back to a two point game by the 14th minute.
Excellent attacking corner back, Dara Curran got forward for his second point of the game but Cork replied from an O’Brien free to keep a bit of distance between the sides and when Cian Doe added another the ball looked to be very much back in the Cork court.
The final score of the half fell in the way of Oisin McCann for the Ulster men who might well have been ahead at this stage but kicked half a dozen efforts short or wide of the target but they certainly looked to have it all to do as they turned to face the breeze, trailing by two points.
That task became even more daunting as University College Cork extended their lead from an O’Brien free and another point from play by Eoghan Breatnach with Conall Devlin and Liam Gray replying for Ulster but two further points from full-back Alan Dineen and Cian Doe had Cork four in front by the 8th minute and they looked to be heading for victory.
Amazingly though it would be their last score of the game as Jordanstown reshuffled the pack with the introduction of a number of subs and adopted a high press and the intensity of their tackling forced turn-over after turn-over.
Dara Curran came forward for his third point of the evening and a pointed free from Gavin Duffy had it back to two by the 14th minute but despite dominating possession, Ulster were making it hard for themselves with some very poor finishing.
The level of intensity and pressure never eased however with University Cork in a strangle hold and unable to get out of their own half but still holding on for dear life in defence as they fought to hold on for the win.
The sustained pressure finally told however with University of Ulster drawing level through a James McCormick free in the 29th minute before another substitute, Ronan Connor held his nerve to fire over the winner in injury time and earn the Ulster men a hard earned but deserved victory.
There was an interesting sub-plot to this enthralling encounter for followers of the Saffron Gael in Antrim with James McDonnell and Ronan McKillop from All Saints in the University Ulster side and Thomas Gallagher of Glenavy lining out for the Cork University.
McKillop got through a power of work for Jordanstown in the opening half and scored a point before limping off early in the second half while James McDonnell had the task of marking Gallagher and held him scoreless over the hour.
Ulster University: 1 Oisin Tracey, 2 Dara Curran, 3 James McDonnell, 4 Ronan Mallon, 5 Adam Markey, 6 Conall Devlin, 7 Aidan Harny, 8 Jack Cunningham, 9 Eoghan McDonnell, 10 Ciaran Daly, 11 Ronan McKillop, 12 Oisin McCann, 13 Caolan Reevey, 14 Liam Gray, 15 Gavin Duffy. Subs: 23 James McCormick, 20 Ronan McHugh, 26 Ronan Connor, 24 Eoin McConvery, Rory McKiernan, 22 Conor Murphy