Tuesday 24 October 2017

Billy Morgan's Sigerson Cup record deserves a special mention

Billy Morgan, University College Cork manager, celebrates with Luke Connolly, Kevin Fulignati, Alan Cronin, David Nation and Jack Horgan, all from Nemo Rangers club in Cork. Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup, Final, University of Ulster Jordanstown v University College Cork, The Dub, Queen's University, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Billy Morgan, University College Cork manager, celebrates with Luke Connolly, Kevin Fulignati, Alan Cronin, David Nation and Jack Horgan, all from Nemo Rangers club in Cork. Irish Daily Mail Sigerson Cup, Final, University of Ulster Jordanstown v University College Cork, The Dub, Queen's University, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
UCC manager Billy Morgan. Photo: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Billy Morgan's association with the Sigerson Cup goes all the way back to the 1960s but all his attention is on finals weekend in the Connacht centre of excellence in Mayo over the next two days.

Morgan's talented UCC side go into the weekend as second favourites behind reigning champions UCD but face a tricky task this afternoon when they face Paddy Tally's extremely well-drilled St Mary's.

And Morgan admits that the Ulster side's win in the last eight against DCU has the rest of the competition sitting up and taking notice.

"They beat DCU in Dublin and that wouldn't have been easy," Morgan said. "DCU were among the favourites to win and particularly when they were four points up coming towards the end of normal time. It's not like DCU to lose that so Mary's must be good."

Mary's upset the odds but Morgan didn't need that result to remind him just how fraught with danger the independent.ie-sponsored competition can be for fancied sides.

UCC blazed through the challenge of Ciaran Kilkenny's St Pat's with Killian and Adrian Spillane to the fore in a very slick forward line.

That performance saw them priced at 1/33 with one bookmaker shortly before their quarter-final tie with IT Carlow. Carlow set themselves up to be hard to beat and in the process almost pulled off a major shock.

They took UCC to extra-time where the teams managed just a single point between them as Brian O'Driscoll popped up to send the Cork side through.

"We have a good team, (the St Pat's game) was open and Carlow played a totally different type of game and it was hard for us to break it down," said Morgan. "We weren't used to that type of play.

"Against Pat's we looked world beaters but that's because Pat's allowed us to a certain extent to play like that."

Still, given the talent at his disposal, Morgan was confident UCC would reach the last four.

"I expected that we were good enough (to make the weekend) but we were away for two matches - to St Pat's, which turned out to be easy, and to Carlow which was very, very tough so you never know when you are playing away."

UCC are priced as second favourites behind UCD, who hammered another fancied side, UU, in their quarter-finals.

"At the start of the year I'd have put UCD, Jordanstown and DCU as the three big teams in it so at this stage UCD have to be regarded as favourites," said Morgan.

Still Morgan, who played on the UCC winning sides in 1965 and '66, has seen enough of the competition to know that no-one goes into the weekend without hope.

"It's a good stepping stone for prospective county players. It's physical, it's tough and you get a lot of good football in it. I have always loved it."

Independent.ie Sigerson Cup previews

Champions' star quality to prevail

Having won their first Sigerson Cup in 20 years 12 months ago, UCD come into the weekend as odds on favourite to collect back-to-back titles and extend their lead at the top of the roll of honour.

Much of that expectation is built on their surprisingly comprehensive win away to Ulster University, who were also fancied to go all the way but found themselves overpowered by the Dublin college.

A glance at their team sheet shows they have class littered throughout their side, with the likes of Dublin trio Mick Fitzsimons, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey as well as promising Kerry starlet Jack Barry all showing up well at various times.

That leaves UL with an uphill task this afternoon, though it should be considered that they put a respected DIT side away in the quarter-final. They have strong performers in the likes of Gearoid Hegarty (Limerick) and Kerry's Michael Geaney and can ask UCD some tough questions.

Still, it's hard to look past John Divilly's Dublin side here.

UL v UCD, Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, 4.00pm (extra-time if necessary)

Odds: UL 4/1 UCD 1/5 Draw 11/1

Verdict: UCD

Tally's 'saints' can push UCC to the brink

St Mary's caused something of an upset when beating DCU in Dublin after extra-time, and while they have some star performers in Tyrone's Cathal McShane, Down's Kevin McKernan and Armagh's Oisin O'Neill, that win was very much built on their collective power and a willingness to stick to a game-plan that sees them both defend and attack as a unit.

UCC struggled to break down the defensive wall IT Carlow set up in their quarter-final but the Billy Morgan-Tomás Ó Sé managed side finally progressed after extra-time.

They have some promising players such as Killian and Adrian Spillane, but are likely to be without Kerry's Bríain Begley through injury.

They will need patience and efficiency to get over this challenge and they might just manage it but the game will likely be a lot tighter than the odds suggest, with Paddy Tally's Mary's capable of another upset.

St Mary's v UCC, Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, 2.00pm

Odds: St Mary's 2/1 UCC 1/2 Draw 15/2

Verdict: UCC

Irish Independent

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