UCD held on for a slender one-point victory against DCU in a six-goal thriller in this afternoon’s Sigerson Cup quarter-final derby at Belfield.
UCD, who lost last year’s corresponding fixture by ten points, gained sweet revenge for that defeat but it was a close run thing in freezing conditions as the home side set up a semi-final showdown with University of Ulster, Jordanstown.
UCD, inspired by Dublin’s Paul Mannion, had the wind at their backs in the opening half and they went on to lead by eleven points at half-time, 2-9 to 1-1.
They netted from their very first attack through Ryan Basquel and Dublin’s All-Ireland senior winner Jack McCaffrey steamed through for a second UCD goal with less than two minutes on the watch.
UCD were 2-2 to 0-0 clear when Craig Dunleavy with a seventh-minute goal responded for three-time winners and last year’s beaten semi-finalists DCU.
But UCD have won this competition 32 times, more than anybody else, and they went on to dominate the remainder of the first half.
Every point would prove crucial, however, as DCU mounted a remarkable second half comeback that saw them outscore UCD by 2-9 to 1-2.
Conor McGraynor’s 35th minute goal sparked the revival and when Dublin’s Conor McHugh netted in the 47th minute, the gap was down to just a point, 3-6 to 2-10.
Fintan Kelly steamed forward to level proceedings but Mark Hughes bagged a crucial UCD goal eleven minutes from time and that handed the winners a platform they would not relinquish.
DCU battled gamely and Davy Byrne saw a late effort smothered up by some desperate UCD defending.
And with the last play of the game, McGraynor had an outside chance of a winning goal but as a host of UCD players stood on the line, the Wicklow forward’s fierce drive was deflected over the crossbar to safety.
UCD progress to finals weekend at Queen’s and very much in the hunt for their first Sigerson crown since 1996.
Scorers for UCD: Paul Mannion 0-5 (0-1f), Mark Hughes 1-2, Ryan Basquel 1-1, Jack McCaffrey 1-0, John Maloney 0-2, Ciaran Lenehan 0-1.Scorers for DCU: Conor McHugh 1-3 (0-2f), Conor McGraynor 1-1 (0-1f), Craig Dunleavy 1-0, Davy Byrne 0-2, Fintan Kelly, Colm Begley & Gary Sweeney 0-1 each.
UCD: Eoghan Keogh (Laois); Ryan Wylie (Monaghan), David Byrne (Dublin), Rob McDaid (Dublin); Paraic O’Harnan (Meath), Jack McCaffrey (Dublin), Ciaran Lenehan (Meath); Matt O’Hanlon (Wexford), Con Sheridan (Meath); Mark Hughes (Longford), Paul Kingston (Laois), Brian Fenton (Dublin); John Maloney (Offaly), Paul Mannion (Dublin), Ryan Basquel (Dublin).
Subs: Conor Downey (Meath) for Kingston (21), Josh Hayes (Cavan) for Fenton (43), Paddy Reilly (Louth) for Lenehan (49), Colm Driver (Dublin) for Basquel (51), Shane McEntee (Meath) for Sheridan (54).
DCU: James Farrelly (Meath); Edwin Murray (Galway), Donal Wrynn (Leitrim), Ciaran Cafferky (Roscommon); Gary Sweeney (Dublin), Fintan Kelly (Roscommon), Pete Dooney (Monaghan); Eoin O’Connor (Louth), Tom Flynn (Galway); Davy Byrne (Dublin), Craig Dunleavy (Dublin), Michael Quinn (Longford); Conor McHugh (Dublin), Conor McGraynor (Wicklow), Gary Kelly (Galway).
Subs: Jack Smith (Dublin) for Murray (15), Colm Begley (Laois) for Kelly (22), Fiontan O’Curraoin (Galway) for Dunleavy (half-time), William Lowry (Dublin) for O’Connor (54), Fionn O’Shea (Cork) for Dooney (58).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).