Despite not competing in the Sigerson final, today was still an exciting one for Trinity. Hosting the Sigerson is a big deal for the College, epitomised by the launch earlier in the week where the excitement was palpable. The clash between University College Dublin (UCD) and NUI Galway brought a sizeable crowd to Santry Avenue, where the sidelines filled and a makeshift terrace was erected for the day.
UCD came into the Sigerson Cup final with all the experience. NUIG, on the other hand, hasn’t won a Sigerson since 2003, during which time UCD has claimed two. The influx of a flock of extremely talented inter-county players has helped NUIG rocket past the likes of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), University College Cork (UCD) and Institute of Technology Sligo into the final. Nevertheless, UCD boasted some top-class talent of their own, particularly Dublin superstar and young player of the year Con O’Callaghan. The game, then, would always be tilted on the side of the South Dublin university.
NUIG, however, started the better of the two teams, with Enda Tierney and Adam Gallagher scoring one each in the first five minutes. NUIG’s forwards looked on form and their movement was causing serious problems for UCD in the first 20 minutes, during which time they had two clear-cut goal chances.
Yet their ability to create chances would not be good enough against an extremely fit and talented UCD side. Directly after a narrow miss from NUIG’s Owen Gallagher, UCD worked the ball up the pitch and Conor McCarthy completed the quick counter-attack with a clinical finish.
NUIG rallied after this, and Tierney drew level with UCD on the stroke of half-time. Going into the dressing room, the stand-out players had been NUIG’s Damien Comer, who had nailed some stunning points, and McCarthy, who was a constant threat up front.
The second half was a much looser affair, with both teams pushing for the win. NUIG managed to get their first goal after a bad mistake by UCD keeper Charlie Manton early in the half. Minutes later, NUIG’s Gallagher got their second goal. McCarthy kept the scoreboard ticking over for UCD, but with two minutes remaining they were a point down.
UCD’s Liam Casey stepped up, scoring a beautiful point to level it, and in added time he fisted the ball over to put them ahead. UCD passed the ball around the backline with an exhausted NUIG team chasing and coming tantalisingly close. UCD kept their head and held out for the win. When the whistle blew, Galway bodies hit the deck as UCD players gleefully embraced each other around the pitch. The match ended 1-13 to 2-9.
In the end, confidence was what set the teams apart. With Dublin superstars like O’Callaghan on the pitch and Jack McCaffrey and Eoin Murchan on the sideline, UCD were well able to close out a game they didn’t necessarily deserve to win. The despondent NUIG team left the field to the sound of the UCD players chanting “championé”. Although undoubtedly painful for NUIG, perhaps these roles could be reversed next year. For Trinity, the day was a great success with no organizational hiccups and a great game to boot.