In a game that never ignited and was largely characterised by sub-standard play, UCC’s claims for victory were ultimately more convincing at the final whistle. They found the task of staving off the challenge of DIT problematic in normal time, and were left disheartened when DIT drew level at 0-6 apiece with a stylish point from Cavan wing-forward Martin Reilly right on the 60th minute.
Indeed DIT had a chance to triumph from a placed ball in injury-time but Dublin county man Diarmuid Connolly was always going to have difficulties in converting a free from over 50 yards and his effort dropped short.
Considering the monopoly of possession UCC enjoyed for periods in normal time, and the abundance of chances they frittered away, the statistic of 20 wides was particularly glaring.
It might have been easy to forecast that their nerves would be frayed entering extra-time. But, to their credit, they maintained their composure, refused to allow the pile-up of wides upset them and, most crucially of all, had the players in reserve capable of filling the role of gamebreaker.
A persistent thigh injury ruled out Barry O’Driscoll’s chances of nailing down a starting spot, but when the Nemo Rangers player was thrust into the action near the end of normal time, he seized his chance. After David O’Callaghan and Daniel Graham had exchanged points in extra-time, O’Driscoll gathered possession near goal and pointed.
That put UCC 0-8 to 0-7 ahead at the midway juncture of extra-time and after David Goold curled over a 74th-minute free, O’Driscoll pounced again. This time he quickly turned before weaving through the DIT defence, calmly rounded goalkeeper Eoin Somerville before bundling in a right foot shot.
A late Daithí Casey free swelled UCC’s winning margin to six points and while that did flatter them, they were deserved victors.
“We’re glad to get out of here with a win,” remarked UCC selector John Corcoran afterwards. “It wasn’t a great game, but the way DIT brought bodies back behind the ball meant it was always going to be like that. We’re a work in progress but we’ll look forward to NUIG next Wednesday.”
The football on show was far from illuminating but DIT’s tactical layout from the start indicated a grim battle was in the offing. They packed the middle third with bodies, retreated behind the ball when not in possession, used Cian Mackey as an auxiliary midfielder throughout and had Kildare defender Ross Glavin floating between the half and full-back lines. The tactics worked as Glavin showed astute positional awareness to constantly cut out UCC passes.
It was 0-3 apiece at the interval, three frees for UCC from David O’Callaghan (2) and David Goold, and Martin Reilly, Paul Cunningham and John McGrath all notched for DIT, but UCC’s errant marksmanship had been the defining feature of that half as they chalked up eleven wides in total. That may have generated frustration amongst their camp but there was solace to be taken from the excellence of their defence.
The backline was where UCC’s real strength lay and while they conceded two early second-half frees that Diarmuid Connolly pointed for DIT, they shut up shop thereafter and kept their opponents scoreless for 24 minutes. But the escalating wide count meant they only crawled back into contention, relying on O’Callaghan, David Kearney and John Buckley for their three second-half points. Reilly’s injury-time score dispatched the game into additional periods, where O’Driscoll ensured UCC would not rue their normal time misses.
Scorers for UCC: B O’Driscoll 1-1, D O’Callaghan 0-4 (0-4f), D Goold 0-2 (0-2f), D Kearney, J Buckley, D Casey (0-1f) 0-1 each.
DIT: M Reilly 0-2, D Connolly 0-2 (0-2f), P Cunningham, J McGrath, D Graham 0-1 each.
UCC: K O’Halloran (Cork); E Cotter (Cork), E Hegarty (Cork), S Enright (Kerry); D Limrick (Cork), A Greaney (Kerry), P Corrigan (Limerick); M Shields (Cork), J Buckley (Kerry); D O’Callaghan (Kerry), D Goold (Cork), S Kiely (Cork); D Kearney (Cork), S Hayes (Cork), P Honohan (Cork).
Subs: D Casey (Kerry) for Kiely (37), M Collins (Cork) for Hayes (37), B O’Driscoll (Cork) for Honohan (56), S Hayes (Cork) for Kearney (72), P Crowley (Kerry) for Corrigan (75).
DIT: E Somerville (Dublin); J Gallagher (Donegal), K Diffley (Longford), E Naughton (Kildare); D Hughes (Monaghan), R Glavin (Kildare), D Graham (Cavan); J Coughlan (Dublin), P Cunningham (Dublin); K McLoughlin (Mayo), E O’Reilly (Meath), D Connolly (Dublin); C Mackey (Cavan), J McGrath (Wicklow), M Reilly (Cavan).
Subs: A McLoughlin (Wicklow) for Cunningham (52), R Tierney (Wexford) for Naughton (54), N Coughlan (Dublin) for McGrath (54), A Nestor (Meath) for Mackey (58), S Bergin (Kildare) for McLoughlin (70), D Flynn (Roscommon) for N Coughlan (75).
Referee: M Collins (Cork)