A HUGELY entertaining All-Ireland Freshers 'A' football league final saw UCD emerge victorious over Dublin rivals DCU at Parnell Park yesterday.
UCD 2-14; DCU 2-12
The winners, managed by former Dublin senior Stephen O'Shaughnessy, having raced into a 1-6 to 0-2 lead after just 10 minutes, were forced to withstand a strong second-half showing from the Northsiders, for whom Dublin minor dual star of this year Conor McHugh hit 2-2.
It was another young Dub, Jack McCaffrey, who got the opening goal when he finished off a fine move that he had initiated inside his own half after a trademark lung-busting run.
That came after impressive corner-forward Niall Kelly, a Kildare minor this summer, had popped two fine early scores along with another from Paul Kingston.
A McHugh point did little to settle DCU as the Belfield men continued to dominate and further scores from Dublin U21 Paul Mannion and Luke Kelly extended their advantage.
Ciarán Byrne (Louth) kicked a huge point for DCU to which Niall Kelly responded. However, DCU were never going to allow this one to turn into a mauling and two points from Gary Kelly and one from Byrne in the 10 minutes before the interval left them trailing by four at the break, 1-7 to 0-6.
Kingston grabbed a second point immediately after the restart to extend UCD's advantage but DCU quickly responded through Niall Murphy and Byrne to cut the gap to a goal.
Disaster then struck for DCU when Niall Kelly stole in behind their full-back line and saw his shot slip through the grasp of Ross McCarrick for their second goal. At that point, it seemed that UCD would cruise home.
But DCU came back at them. A searing run from the right by Gary Kelly - a feature of the second period - created the space for him to play a fisted pass into the path of McHugh. The Na Fianna man palmed the ball into the net, taking a heavy knock off the post for his trouble.
Gavin Burke and Luke Kelly traded scores before McHugh popped up again to hammer home his second goal after reacting quickest to the rebound from a fine save by UCD keeper Pádraig Gallagher. Suddenly it was all square with 48 minutes gone.
But DCU just couldn't push on and and instead it was UCD who finished the stronger. Mannion, through a free, and substitute Liam Connerton gave them the initiative once more.
Murphy kept his team in touch through a dead ball but again UCD came back with a brace, this time from another sub, Meath man Fiachra Ward.
A goal was always going to be needed if DCU were to get anything from the game but it never came. McHugh's last act was to place a consolation free over the bar in injury time as he and his team came up short.
SCORERS - UCD: N Kelly 1-3; P Mannion 0-4 (3f); J McCaffrey 1-0; P Kingston, L Kelly, F Ward (1f) 0-2 each; L Connerton 0-1. DCU: C McHugh 2-2 (0-1f); G Kelly 0-4 (2f); C Byrne 0-3; N Murphy 0-2; G Burke 0-1.
UCD: P Gallagher; S O'Sullivan, D Byrne, O Fitzpatrick; D Murphy, P Harnan, S McEntee; J McCaffrey, P Quirke; L Kelly, P Mannion, J Turbitt; N Kelly, P Kingston, S Kilcoyne. Subs: L Connerton for Kilcoyne (ht), M Mac Donnacha for O'Sullivan (42), F Ward for Turbitt (50), D Campbell for Murphy (57).
DCU: R McCarrick; S Attride, K Butler, C Finn; F McGeough, C Kerr, J McGuigan; A Flanagan, E Smith; G Burke, C Byrne, P Kennelly; C McHugh, N Murphy, G Kelly. Subs: C Diamond for Flanagan (39), C Ward for Kennelly (55).
REF: G McCormack (Dublin).