'It's not fair' - Victorious UCD boss hits out after Corofin star's motorway dash
UCD 1-13 NUI Galway 2-9
It was hard to hide the satisfaction on John Divilly's face after guiding UCD to their second Sigerson Cup title in three years, but he also couldn't disguise his disgust at the player welfare "debacle".
NUI Galway defender Kieran Molloy went above the call of duty for Saturday's final, making a mad dash from Tullamore to Santry to come on in the 39th minute despite earlier playing a full game as Corofin booked their All-Ireland club SFC final place.
Molloy's clubmate Liam Silke, who scored the all-important goal against Moorefield and was part of the UCD squad, injured his finger in that semi-final but Divilly insisted he would not have subjected him to another game, and he called for radical change.
"Liam was going to travel up if we wanted him to but I wasn't going to put him in there, no way. Fair play to Kieran Molloy, savage, he came in and he played brilliant. But I wouldn't do that to a player. He's after giving an hour's football… it's not fair," he said.
"I just feel very sorry for Kieran and Liam. This was flagged three months ago that this could happen. If the GAA are serious about this, and there is a new GAA president coming in, he needs to bring us all in and say, 'How can we make this competition survive into the future? How can we get games of football like this played?'
"The players love it - the effort was savage out there. They all want to participate, they all want to win. I hope the GAA learn from the debacle in the last few weeks. Don't start talking about it, just bring us into a room and maybe listen to the people who are at the coalface and start taking decisions from the ground up."
Divilly's NUI Galway counterpart Maurice Sheridan echoed those sentiments, describing Molloy's efforts as "heroic".
"It's a pity that we didn't have him (Molloy, from the start) and it's a pity that the final wasn't allowed to be on a bit later in the day, which would have accommodated him. The GAA have to look at that with player welfare and all the stuff that they go on about," Sheridan said. "It's obscene. We've got guys who are involved in National League games tomorrow. It's absolutely horrendous."
An upset looked on the cards as Sheridan's side raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead with Galway attackers Enda Tierney and Damien Comer a handful as UCD showed obvious effects of their 100-minute marathon victory over Jordanstown on Wednesday night.
If Comer had not unluckily seen his palmed effort hit the frame of the goal in the 19th minute - "a huge turning point" in Divilly's eyes - NUI Galway could have been out of sight. Instead, UCD went straight down the pitch and man-of-the-match Conor McCarthy fired to the right corner. A six-point swing.
With Laois duo Eoin Lowry and Evan O'Carroll impressive in attack, UCD found their stride before inspirational captain Comer and Tierney struck a point apiece to leave it level at half-time, 1-5 to 0-8.
It looked like a first Sigerson Cup win in 15 years could be on the cards for NUI Galway as second-half goals from Sean Kelly and Adam Gallagher handed them the momentum in the closing ten minutes but UCD showed remarkable resolve in a thrilling finish.
Dublin star Con O'Callaghan - who was well marshalled for 50 minutes by Sligo's Kevin McDonnell but thundered into the game in the closing 10 minutes to add another medal to his remarkable haul - and McCarthy fired over before two late points from Tipperary's Liam Casey secured UCD's 34th Sigerson Cup title.
It also gives Mayo's Stephen Coen the unique distinction of captaining All-Ireland winning teams at minor, U-21 and third-level.
SCORERS - UCD: C McCarthy 1-6 (0-3fs), L Casey 0-3, E Lowry 0-2, E O'Carroll, C O'Callaghan 0-1 each. NUI Galway: A Gallagher 1-3 (3f), S Kelly 1-0, D Comer, E Tierney (1f) 0-3 each.
UCD - C Manton; L Fortune, C O'Shea, C Mullally; P Healy, J Feehan, S Coen; B O'Sullivan, J Barry; L Casey, C McCarthy, B Byrne; E Lowry, E O'Carroll, C O'Callaghan. Subs: B Ó Seanacháin for Fortune (half-time), T Hayes for O'Carroll (59).
NUI GALWAY - T O'Malley; K McDonnell, S Mulkerrin, S Brennan; G O'Kelly Lynch, R Greene, C Kelly; C D'Arcy, P Cooke; A Gallagher, O Gallagher, E Tierney; B Donovan, D Comer, S Kelly.
Subs: R O'Toole for Kelly inj (34), K Molloy for Greene (39), E Finnerty for O Gallagher (43), R Forde for Donovan (46), M Daly for D'Arcy (57).
REF - J McQuillan (Cavan).