Morgan's heroes send hosts packing
UCC 0-13 UCD 0-11
BILLY MORGAN'S UCC heroes proved their shock victory over DCU on Thursday was no fluke when they stunned competition hosts UCD in a tense semi-final battle at Belfield yesterday.
For a team that was ranked as 7/1 outsiders for a first crown since 1995, UCC certainly have shown no regard for that assessment and have played like champions for two days running.
And they will start today's final with UUJ as favourites after dumping out a UCD side who had put in a massive effort to crown the 100th anniversary of their inaugural Sigerson triumph with a first title since 1996.
Ultimately, UCD could have no complaints as they were beaten by a fiercely committed UCC, who soaked up periods of intense pressure before showing their class on the break.
It didn't look good for the Cork men in the opening exchanges, when Westmeath's teen star John Heslin inspired UCD into taking a three-point lead.
But a well-drilled UCC showed impressive composure and just as in their quarter-final triumph, their tight-knit defence was the rock upon which their challenge was built.
Despite their lack of big inter-county names, UCC had an exceptionally well-balanced team and inspirational ball-winners and carriers in Sean Kiely, James Fitzpatrick and Mark Collins, and an ace marksman in Barry O'Driscoll.
Fitzpatrick hit the side netting in the 14th minute, but the Cork side then reeled off five points in as many minutes as their slick movement cut through the UCD rearguard to give them a 0-8 to 0-5 interval lead.
UCD lost influential Dublin defender Michael Fitzsimons to injury at the start of the second half.
But the Dublin-based side were a much more direct in the second half as they dominated midfield and levelled at 0-9 apiece through O'Loughlin (twice) and Kelly by the 44th minute.
However, it was during this storm that UCC held their nerve impressively and continued to defend brilliantly. They were helped by a succession of poor wides from a panic-stricken UCD side, who crucially never got their noses in front and began to look ragged and frantic.
Eventually, UCC goalkeeper Ken O'Halloran stopped going long and started to cleverly pick out men on the wings from kick-outs and UCC were far more formidable building attacks from deep with men surging through on the overlap.
All-Ireland winning Cork panellist Kiely drove the Rebels forward and they took their chance to relieve the pressure through Shane Beston and Will Kennedy.
UCD countered through Wexford's Ciaran Lyng and Antrim's Kevin McGourty to level in the last minute of normal time.
But a defiant UCC never buckled and they threw themselves into tackles and made clever use of hard won possession, with a Daithi Casey free and a Mark Collins effort booking them a place in the final.
In the dying moments UCD had Marc McGowan sent off for a clash with Collins to put another nail in the UCD Sigerson coffin. But it mattered little as UCC made sure there was no more late drama and denied the hosts any chance of a life-saving goal.
Scorers -- UCC: D Casey 0-3 (3f), W Kennedy, J Fitzpatrick, B O'Driscoll (1f), S Kiely 0-2 each, M Collins, S Beston 0-1 each. UCD: J Heslin (1f),R Kelly (1f),J O'Loughlin, D Kingston 0-2 each, K McGourty, M Coughlan, C Lyng 0-1 each.
UCC -- K O'Halloran; P Crowley, E O'Mahony, J O'Sullivan; S Kiely, A Greaney, B Daly; W Kennedy, J Fitzpatrick; K O'Driscoll, M Collins, JB Spillane; B O'Driscoll, D Casey, J Buckley. Subs: S Beston for Buckley (38), N Daly for Greaney (48), S O'Brien for O'Driscoll (58).
UCD -- M Savage; S Redmond, C Forde, M Fitzsimons; M McGowan, C Brady, J Fitzpatrick; J Heslin, C Murphy; K McGourty, J O'Loughlin, M Coughlan; R Kelly, D Kingston, C Lyng. Subs: C Dyas for Coughlan (h-t), M Brazil for Fitzsimons (34), D Larkin for Fitzpatrick (55).
Ref -- P Fox (Westmeath).