Monday 18 December 2017

Moyna hails character as McGraynor grabs glory for DCU

DCU 1-14 UCC 2-10

Donal Wrynn, DCU, centre, scores his side's first goal despite the efforts of UCC's Alan O'Donovan and goalkeeper Michael Martin
Donal Wrynn, DCU, centre, scores his side's first goal despite the efforts of UCC's Alan O'Donovan and goalkeeper Michael Martin
Conor McGraynor, DCU, in action against Padraig O'Connor, UCC
Luke Connolly, UCC, is shown a yellow card by referee Eddie Kinsella
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Perhaps the best place to start is at the end. It's well into the one minute of injury time at the end of the second period of extra-time.

UCC have a late free to equalise and, on the sideline, officials are rifling through rule books to see whether a draw would mean more extra-time or a replay.

It's established that a point would have seen the unusual scenario of a Sigerson final replay. The free was a full 45 metres out and the effort was good but tailed away at the end. Only then could DCU celebrate a third title in six campaigns.

Until recently, DCU teams had been littered with household names.

When they won in 2012, Paul Flynn and Michael Murphy were to the fore. Two years before that Dublin pair Bryan Cullen and Philly McMahon led them to success.

But this success was less about big names and more about defiance.

"It was much less expected, definitely," a delighted DCU manager Niall Moyna reflected afterwards. "There was no expectation at the beginning of the year at all.

"We got a little bit of momentum, winning the league. And don't ask me how we won it but we did. And that built momentum.

"But every Sigerson is special. There is no doubt about that. And this one, and the fact they're such a tight bunch of lads, then to lose our captain Tom Flynn and vice-captain Davy Byrne, because they were our leaders on the pitch. . .

"And when you don't have leaders on the pitch, that can be difficult. But a lot of guys stepped up."

Earned

Certainly, they rode their luck on occasion through the campaign but perhaps they had earned it.

Only a soft-looking penalty against UCD saw them home in the semi-final. And that goal came only after the initial effort had been saved.

But before that they had gone north and beaten one of the pre-tournament favourites in UUJ, who had looked well placed to make a serious impression on the competition.

They repeated the trick when seeing off a well-organised St Mary's side to get to the weekend in Cork.

In the final, both sides showed deep reserves of character.

DCU looked to have produced a winning hand in normal time when they goaled midway through the second half.

With scores at a premium, it looked the decisive moment.

But UCC, playing on home soil and looking to become the first side to retain the title since Sligo IT in 2005, came up with a reply.

Alan O'Donovan punched the ball to the net with only minutes remaining to put them in the box seat. Still, there was enough time for DCU to earn a free on the wrong side of the 45 metre line.

Moyna sent for Roscommon goalkeeper Tadhg Lowe. Even Lowe's inclusion in the side had been in doubt. DCU had used three goalkeepers in their league and O'Byrne cup campaigns and he wasn't one of them, only emerging for the Sigerson campaign.

Still, he stepped up and stroked over the equaliser to force extra-time.

"Believe it or not he didn't play all year," Moyna said. "We had four goalkeepers and we sat down one night and I had a feeling about him and I said 'Tadhg you're the guy that is in'."

The additional period wasn't straightforward either but DCU, who by now had introduced the influential Longford man Mickey Quinn, led by two points at half-time.

With scores so hard to come by, it was clear UCC needed a goal on the restart and David Culhane produced one of the best individual efforts you could wish for.

He won possession directly from the throw-in and raced through the heart of the defence to flash past Lowe in the DCU goal.

The balance of the game had swung again. Kevin Davis (UCC) and Donie Smith (DCU) exchanged scores, and the sides were level coming into the home stretch and legs were starting to visibly tire as the second game in two days started to take its toll.

There was time, however, for McGraynor to win a crucial ball and keep his head to stroke over to put DCU's noses in front again with the second additional ten minutes almost up.

chance

As the game ticked into injury-time, there was one last chance.

Billy Morgan's UCC reintroduced Luke Connolly for Kerry's All-Ireland winner Paul Geaney for the free but he missed narrowly and DCU were champions.

In all, they had played 13 games across their season which had seen them win both league and championship, and 11 of those came away from home.

"Like every championship you need a little bit of luck and we had a little bit of luck but I think character builds luck," Moyna said.

"The harder you train the more luck you get and this group put in a huge effort.

"I don't know if I can take much credit, they're just a great set of lads who dig deep.

"I wouldn't want to be in a dressing-room with a better set of human beings and characters and they showed that in spades today."

Scorers - DCU: D Wrynn 1-1, C McHugh (1f), Tadhg Lowe (2fs), E Smith, E O'Connor 0-2 each, S O'Brien, C Boyle, C Daly, C McGraynor, D Smith 0-1 each. UCC: A O'Donovan 1-1, D Culhane 1-0, C Cox 0-3 (1f), C Dorman, T Clancy, S Keane, L Connolly (1 '45'), Gary O'Sullivan, Kevin Davis 0-1 each.

DCU - T Lowe; J Smith, C Boyle, C Daly; C Moynagh, D Ward , C Begley; E O'Connor, S O'Brien; D O'Connor, C Meredith, D Wrynn; E Smith, C McGraynor, C McHugh. Subs: M Quinn for Ward, D Smith for McHugh (both h-t), B Donnelly for Meredith (53), S McCoy for E Smith (58), E Smith for O'Connor (e-t), C Meredith for Carey (BC, 63 mins), N Murphy for E O'Connor (69), T Lahiffe for E Smith (75).

UCC - M Martin; F McNamara, J McGuire, P O'Connor; C Dorman, D Culhane, T Clancy; G O'Sullivan, S Kiely; S Keane, L Connolly, B O'Driscoll, P Geaney, D Harrington, C Cox. Subs: A O'Donovan for O'Driscoll (29), K Davis for Keane (53), S White for O'Donovan (59), J Davis for McNamara (70), T Hickey for Connolly (77), L Connolly for Geaney (80).

Ref - E Kinsella (Laois)

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