UCD 2-18 0-18 UCC
The age-old mantra that goals win games rung true as UCD claimed a hard-fought but well deserved victory over UCC in an entertaining Quarter Final of the Irish Daily Mail Higher Education Hurling League at Belfield on Thursday evening last, check with the foundations to success seen in their superior movement and dominance of primary possession.
With a clear advantage over their southern counterparts in the middle third of the field, hospital UCD looked the hungrier side throughout and made the better use of their purple patches as both sides looked for a win without some of their key men.
UCD flew out of the traps brilliantly with a Walter Walsh point within the opening five seconds a clear statement of intent which they duly followed up on, click with further scores from Jack Guiney, Noel McGrath and a trio from Paddy Murphy seeing them 0-6 to 0-1 to the good inside ten minutes.
The men from Cork looked shell-shocked by UCD’s start, but began to settle into the frenetic pace of the opening half. With a clear tactic of pumping early ball into the full-forward line insofar as possible, they got a foothold and began to pull themselves back into the game, with Seamus Harnedy and Cillian Murphy picking off some excellent scores.
The remainder of the second half saw a tit-for-tat battle develop between the sides. Noel McGrath was in majestic form for UCD, winning a monstrous amount of ball and spraying passes with supreme precision. He was shown a yellow card after 24 minutes however for a wild pull which caught Cork inter-county player Jamie Nagle, and the resultant free from Harnedy drew the visitors level. McGrath atoned for this though with a long, raking point which he popped over directly after catching a puck-out.
A glorious short-passing move almost saw Walter Walsh score the game’s opening goal, but his rasping shot from a tight angle was tipped wide by Darren McCarthy. McGrath knocked over the 65 and another free to go along with a superb score on the turn from Jack Guiney, giving the UCD a two point lead at the change of ends, 0-12 to 0-10. It was a deserved lead, fantastic off-the-ball movement and resolute play from the full-back line standing out as key facets to the advantage.
The break probably came at a bad time for the home side, looking decidedly sluggish after the resumption of play and they allowed Conor Lehane to pull the strings after he was kept quiet in the first period. UCC moved themselves into a two point lead of their own through Dan McCormack, Jack Aherne, Cillian Murphy and a magnificent effort from their standout player Mark Sugrue, who drilled over from an almost impossible angle.
This setback seemed to ignite the UCD side, and after gradually bringing themselves level through braces from Walsh and McGrath, they struck for the jugular. Ross Kelly finished off a mesmerising team move with a low drive to the UCC net after outstanding movement along the left wing. UCD began to hit their stride, Walter Walsh hit a fantastic angled drive over the bar and Guiney once again did damage by coming deep to collect low ball before firing over on the turn.
UCC would not lie down though and kept themselves in with a shout with points from Harnedy, Haughney and a beauty from William Egan from his own half. UCD finally killed off their challenge with five minutes remaining. Noel McGrath sent a free long into the UCC penalty box, and second half sub Doc O’Connor was quickest to react, striking home first time after Nagle spilled the high ball. There was time for one last consolation score for UCC with Sugrue driving over the final puck of the game, leaving the final score 2-18 to 0-18.
Nicky English must be happy with the performance of his charges, gaining progression to a league semi and showing promising signs for the impending Fitzgibbon Cup while victory against the reigning Fitzgibbon champions will undoubtedly give confidence. Noel McGrath was at times unplayable, hovering up everything that came his way as well as scoring and distributing excellently. Matthew McCaffrey, Cillian Buckley and Walter Walsh were also very impressive for UCD, who can now look forward to a tie with University of Limerick in the semi-finals.
UCD – Noel McGrath (0-5 f, 0-1 65’), Walter Walsh 0-4, Jack Guiney 0-4, Ross Kelly 1-0, Doc O’Connor 1-0, Paddy Murphy 0-3
UCC – S. Harnedy 0-6 (0-4f), M.Sugrue 0-3, J. Aherne 0-2 (0-1f), D.McCormack 0-2, C.Murphy 0-2, W. Egan 0-2, P. Haughney 0-1
UCD – B. Murphy, M. McCaffrey, W. Phelan, J. Dunne, J. Hoyne (B. O’Carroll 38 min), C. Buckley, S. Norton, D. Fox (A. O’Dowd HT), N. McGrath, P. Keogh, P. Murphy, R. Kelly, J. Gilligan (D. O’Connor 25 min), J. Guiney, W. Walsh
UCC – D. McCarthy, K. Lane, C. Ryan, C. Murphy, J. Barry, J. Nagle, W. Egan, C. Murphy, B. Murphy, C. Lehane, D. McCormack, M. Sugrue, P. Haughney, S. Harnedy, J. Aherne
Referee – Anthony Stapleton (Laois)