Maurice Sheridan’s NUIG suffered the narrowest of defeats at the hands of reigning champions UCC on Sunday afternoon in Dangan, losing by 2-12 to 1-14.
In what was an entertaining game, the Cork based outfit just about deserved their victory, based on their greater efficiency than their Galway counterparts. It is the second year in succession NUIG has suffered defeat to UCC in the Sigerson Cup.
With the majority of last year’s crop involved, NUIG began the brighter of the two, racing into a four point lead. The razor sharp Robert Finnerty, who was the best player on show by some margin, was responsible for three of these scores, with Finnian O’Laoi also chipping in with a smart score.
However, the Cork side quickly replied with 2-05 without response to shock NUIG. Galway native Rory Cunningham expertly finished UCC’s first goal after brilliant work by Kerry All-Star Seán O’Sé in the build up. The Leeside outfit notched a point through a placed ball by O’Sé to level the game, before a brilliant solo goal was scored by Meath native and wing back James McEntee, who was a major presence throughout the contest.
UCC continued to stamp their authority on the game by nabbing the next four points, but NUIG found their way back into the game with Robert Finnerty to the fore.
The Salthill-Knocknacarra clubman was simply untouchable throughout, with not one UCC defender capable of containing him. Be it off the left or right boot, everything the Galway star touched turned to gold. It was Finnerty who brought his side back into the game before half-time with a superbly taken goal. He received the ball in the left-corner forward position before easily shaking his marker with a swift dummy to create the space to smash the ball into the top of the net from his right boot - such class from the full-forward will delight Galway manager Padraic Joyce.
The sides went in at the break with UCC ahead on a scoreline of 2-07 to 1-09, and what followed in the second half was a game which went tit-for-tat until the end.
Rory Cunningham edged UCC two in front shortly after the break from a placed ball, but NUIG responded with two points from Finnerty. The introduction of Kieran Molloy at half-time gave NUIG a welcome boost in their attempt to topple their opponents, however for the third year in succession, Molloy’s success at club level has hindered his involvement with his college.
UCC, however, had a trump card of their own to spring from the bench as Kerry senior star Diarmuid O’Connor entered the fray with 15 minutes remaining. Molloy was not the only player on show with compromised commitments as O’Connor had played a Junior All-Ireland semi-final the day before Na Gaeil, as had teammate Killian Spillane with his club Templenoe.
NUIG, struggling to get their noses in front, went down to 14 men as Seán Mulkerrin was sin-binned for a needless late tackle on O’Sé, and Diarmuid O’Connor made his impact on the game with a beauty off his right to put his side two up.
Molloy and Killian Spillane then traded scores which kept the Cork side two in front. A late Dessie Conneely free put the minimum between the sides and created a tense finale. Conneely then had an opportunity to level it deep into stoppage-time, but skewed his free just right and wide as UCC ran out victors.