Champions UCC march on to Independent.ie Sigerson Cup semi-finals at IT Sligo's expense
Reigning Independent.ie Sigerson Cup Champions UCC advanced to their sixth semi-final in as many years, following a 0-13 to 0-8 win over IT Sligo in the Mardyke this afternoon.
Experience counted, as the hosts braved a determined second half comeback to set up a date with IT Carlow next Friday afternoon, also at the Mardyke.
Conor Cox has been a lynchpin of many a UCC victory in recent years, with the Listowel Emmets clubman’s tally of five-points providing the difference on the score-board at the full-time whistle.
Cox lined out at full-forward, in an attack which also included Kerry Senior player Éanna Ó Conchuir, with Paul Geaney missing out through injury.
IT Sligo manager Martin McHugh was without his sons Mark or Ryan, owing to a Donegal team holiday in Dubai, with the starting line-up showing five changes in personnel from their extra-time win over Queens University in the last round.
Evan Regan was also a major loss for the visitors, as he continues to recover from a fractured clavicle sustained in Mayo’s Allianz League opening round win over Kerry.
With this last-eight encounter only rescheduled on Tuesday night, after IT Sligo successfully overturned the decision to exclude them from the competition, the Connacht college were left with a short period to refocus the minds.
IT Sligo had initially stopped training, after weekend hosts UCC had been handed a semi-final place, but despite preparations being staggered, the visitors put up a strong showing in the opening quarter.
Mayo’s James Shaughnessy handed the visitors an early lead, thanks to a pointed free in the second minute, but beaten McGrath Cup finalists UCC tagged on a trio of unanswered scores to move 0-3 to 0-1 ahead after six minutes.
Top-scorer in last year’s Sigerson Cup Final, and with nine points in their opening round demolition of Cork IT last month, Conor Cox once again impressed for UCC.
Cox fired two of their opening three points, with Luke Connolly claiming the opener, as Billy Morgan’s side pushed two points clear.
However, UCC wouldn’t score again for a further 13 minutes, as IT Sligo pushed ahead, with Shaughnessy taking his second point, before scores from Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna and Mayo’s Brian Gallagher ensured a 0-4 to 0-3 lead after 12 minutes.
Defences stood firm over the next seven minutes, but UCC found their composure before the break.
‘College delivered four scores in as many minutes, as David Harrington (2), Cox and Eanna Ó Conchuir all fired the ball over the black spot, to ensure a 0-7 to 0-4 lead at the interval.
While scores failed to materialise from either side inside five minutes of the restart, UCC got going with Harrington and David Culhane on target in the 35th and 36th minutes to open up a five-point gap.
Shaughnessy and Cox traded scores to ensure a 0-10 to 0-5 score-line after 39 minutes, as IT Sligo began to come good once more.
UCC were held scoreless for a 16-minute spell, as IT Sligo tagged on points from Shaughnessy and McKenna to cut the gap to three points, with eight minutes remaining.
But this was as close as it got for the visitors, as UCC showed their experience late on to outscore IT Sligo by three points to one in the final five minutes, with Alan O’Donovan, Connolly and Cox adding to their tally, while McKenna delivered his third point and IT Sligo’s final score.
UCC’s quest to become the first team since IT Sligo in 2004-05 to claim back-to-back titles continues against an IT Carlow side aiming for their first ever title.
UCC Scorers: Conor Cox (4f) 0-5; David Harrington 0-3; Luke Connolly (1f) 0-2; Éanna Ó Conchuir, David Culhane, Alan O’Donovan 0-1 each.
IT Sligo Scorers: James Shaughnessy (2f) 0-4; Daniel McKenna (2f) 0-3; Brian Gallagher 0-1.
UCC (Kerry unless stated): Michael Martin (Cork); David Culhane, Jack McGuire, Padraig O’Connor; Conor Dorman (Cork), Brian O’Driscoll (Cork), Tomas Clancy (Cork); Sean Kiely, (Cork) Gary O’Sullivan; Shaun Keane, Luke Connolly (Cork), Eanna Ó Conchuir; Thomas Hickey, Conor Cox, David Harrington (Cork). Subs: Alan O’Donovan (Cork) for Kiely (52); Ronan Murphy for Ó Conchuir (52).
IT SLIGO (Sligo unless stated): Alvin McCallig (Mayo); Stephen Doak (Donegal), Daragh McConnon, Eoin Flanagan; Michael McWeeney (Leitrim), Robert Gorman (Westmeath), Michael Foody (Mayo); Brian Gallagher (Mayo), Shane McManus; Eunan Doherty (Donegal), Niall Walsh (Cavan), Cathal Mulryan (Galway); James Shaughnessy (Mayo), Daniel McKenna (Monaghan), Stephen Coen. Subs: Ciarán Thompson (Donegal) for Walsh (40); Stephen Henry (Mayo) for Gallagher (47); Ray Connolly for Coen (49); Cian Clinton (Leitrim) for Shaughnessy (57).
REFEREE: Pádraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)