It was an unlikely victory, as UUJ had stormed into a two-goal lead early in the second half, but in a classic case of a game never being over until the final whistle, QUB came with a storming finish to earn their second tilt in a row against Sligo IT in today’s final.
Billed as the game of the championship, it didn’t disappoint and it had the edge of a local derby match.
Hard knocks were given and taken and there was late controversy, as Jordanstown forwards argued with umpires at the final whistle that QUB full-back Dan McCartan had stepped over his goal-line when fielding Mark Lynch’s long delivery. One umpire confirmed that McCartan was over his line but the ball wasn’t.
QUB deserved their victory if only for refusing to throw in the towel when all seemed lost.
They struggled in most areas of the field to cope with the pace and physical presence of the Jordanstown side, and only the excellent free-taking of Brian Mallon kept them in the game.
UUJ got the best possible start. After electing to play with the strong wind, they knocked over three points on the trot in the opening five minutes, and it looked as if QUB were in for a drubbing.
The aerial dominance of Philip Loughran and Malachy Mackin at midfield kept the pressure on the QUB defence for most of the first half and when Colin Devlin’s high lobbing ball was fisted home by Bernard O’Brien in the 15th minute, it seemed to be merely a question of how much UUJ would win by.
However, their outfield dominance was not being reflected on the scoreboard and they were made to earn every score by a tenacious QUB defence in which McCartan and Gerard O’Kane were superb.
QUB were totally dependant on the excellent free-taking of Bernard Mallon for scores in that rousing first half and he accounted for his side’s tally as UUJ went in at the break leading 1-5 to 0-4.
Given the strength of the wind, a four-point lead didn’t look good enough and UUJ were grateful for an excellent save by ‘keeper John Devine to deny James McGovern a certain goal minutes after the resumption.
The strength of this UUJ side was seen to great effect in the 36th minute when they carved Queens open, but Mackin was grounded as he lined up his shot. The resultant penalty by Colin Devlin went wide off the butt of the upright, a miss that was to have huge consequences.
Sensing it could be their day, Queens come forward in waves and after Moran pointed his fifth free, he floated a high ball goal-wards. Conleth Moran first-timed the ball to the net, throwing this bruising contest wide open.
Jordanstown were now completely rattled, and as the tension mounted along with the pressure, Kevin McGourty tied the game up with a great long-range point after the outstanding Brian Mallon had set him up.
Extra time loomed large, but a dogged QUB side weren’t to be denied, with Fermanagh man O’Reilly the hero with the winning point two minutes into injury time.
Scorers for QUB: B Mallon 0-7 (0-6 frees); C Moran 1-0; K McGourty, C O’Reilly 0-1 each.
UUJ: B O’Brien 1-1; M Lynch, C Devlin (0-1 free) 0-2; M Anderson, P Loughren, M Mackin (free) 0-1 each.
QUB: J Gibney; N Bogue, D McCartan, R O’Neill; K Gunn, G O’Kane, J Turley; M McGrath, C O’Brien; G Donaghy, B Mallon, K McGourty; C Moran, J McGovern, P Turley. Subs: C O’Reilly for Moran; C Shields for McGovern.
UUJ: J Devine; J Keenan, J Conlon, R Murray; B Shannon, M Quinn, M Anderson; M Mackin, P Loughren; M Donaghy, S Doherty, M Lynch; C Devlin, J Bradley, B O’Brien. Subs: B Toner for Doherty; M Murphy for Toner; P Forker for Mackin.
Referee: J McCormack (Meath).
Trench Cup semi-finals: St Pats (Drumcondra) 0-13, Army Cadets 0-11; Letterkenny IT 1-12, St Mary’s (Strawberry Hill) 0-10.