Sheridan punishes wasteful county colleagues as DCU pull off a Royal surprise
O'Byrne Cup sf
MEATH have made a tradition of stirring comebacks from the jaws of defeat, but yesterday the students of DCU showed they had learned from the masters by snatching a final berth from this lively encounter at Navan.
The 13-man Royals could have, should have and would have won a game in which they dominated for extended periods of time, but for the sheer cussedness and refusal to quit of the depleted DCU side. Now DCU face a rerun of the 2009 final against holders Louth.
This was a hugely surprising result. Meath tamed Dublin in midweek to go through to this semi-final and DCU's priority is their forthcoming Sigerson Cup campaign. Weigh it up and there should have been only one outcome -- a home win.
Instead, both managers were somewhat shell-shocked by the final scoreline, but DCU boss Niall Moyna wasn't complaining.
"We're playing the Sigerson next Wednesday against UCD, so we had to change our team. We rested 14 of the guys we played last week. I had no expectation at all," he said.
"At the start, I thought we were going to get totally over-run. Then we just got a bit of momentum going.
"The difference is we're in a much further stage in our training than they are. We've an enormous advantage at this time of the year, so I'm pleasantly surprised with the result."
Meath counterpart Eamonn O'Brien had no doubt that his side ought to have qualified for the decider against Louth.
"I'm disappointed. Any time we got out on the field we go out to win. I'm disappointed we didn't win today and it's an awful feeling. It's a game that we could have won but for the chances we didn't take," he said.
O'Brien would not have missed the irony that DCU brought on Meath's Brian Sheridan at a crucial stage late in the game.
And Sheridan showed no mercy to his county colleagues as he fired over a crucial point with three minutes to go, giving DCU valuable breathing-space at 0-14 to 0-12.
In the last minute, Dublin's Paddy Andrews, wearing No 6 but playing full-forward, kicked the last score of the game to give the students a three-point winning margin.
It was amazing, really, because for the whole game, Meath set the tone on the scoreboard, despite having Brian Meade sent off on the half-hour mark for striking Conor Rafferty.
DCU were on level terms only three times: at the throw-in, after 22 minutes when it was 0-5 each, and again in the 65th minute at 0-12 each.
The first time they got in front was in the 66th minute, when Roscommon's Cathal Cregg fired a super point from long range, but once they got the lead, DCU didn't let it go.
They deserve full credit for their battling qualities, even though they relied heavily on free-taker Shane Roche of Wexford.
Roche kicked eight points, seven from frees, including six of the seven DCU scored in the first half.
Cian Ward was the big scorer for the Royals, notching up eight points -- five frees, one from a '45, and two from play.
In the week that the GAA launched its 'Respect' initiative, the players played robustly but without serious malice.
Despite that, referee Derek Shaw, who adopted a no-nonsense approach, sent off three players.
Meade got his red card for for that reckless punch on Rafferty, who himself was dismissed on 59 minutes for two yellows.
And Meath's Barry Regan walked in the 65th minute, also for two yellow cards.
The hosts coped well with the loss of Meade, swarming in defence and looking to break, using Ward as their main target.
The half-time score of 0-8 to 0-7 in Meath's favour slightly flattered the DCU men, and early second-half points by Stephen Bray and Ward suggested that Meath's 14 were well capable of taking care of business.
DCU kept grinding, though, and used their subs to good effect.
They never folded, and once the visitors equalised, the loudly supportive and suddenly very anxious Meath fans called for a big finish by their side.
The boys in green looked as if they would deliver with a series of desperate attacks, but DCU were not to be denied and those late points by Cregg, Sheridan and Andrews left Meath wondering what had hit them.
Scorers -- DCU: S Roche 0-8 (0-7f), P Andrews, C Cregg 0-2 each, S Shortall, C Rafferty, R Cullivan (0-1f), B Sheridan (0-1f) 0-1; Meath: C Ward 0-8 (0-5f, 0-1 '45), O Lewis 0-2, S Kennedy, N Mooney, S Bray 0-1.
DCU -- M Boyle; L Bree, N Collins, E Culligan; S Shortall, P Andrews, H Gill; R Cullivan, H McGrillen; C Cregg, M Lyng, D Bishop; K Nolan, C Rafferty, S Roche. Subs: D Mooney for N Collins (25 mins), C Dunleavy for H McGrillen (44 mins), W Mulhall for M Lyng (54 mins), L O'Donovan for S Roche (58 mins), B Sheridan for D Bishop (63 mins).
Meath: P O 'Rourke; S McAnarney, J Macken, N McKeigue; G O'Brien, B Regan, S Sheridan; N Crawford, D Sheridan; S Bray, N Mooney, O Lewis; B Meade, C Ward, S Kennedy. Subs: C O'Connor for S Sheridan (49 mins), M Burke for D Sheridan (53 mins), C Gillespie for S McAnarney (53 mins), P Byrne for S Kennedy (60 mins).
REF: D Fahy (Longford).