A Sigerson Cup triumph in the competition’s centenary year was a notable feat but they ensured the good times kept rolling at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday when they capped an outstanding season. Daithí Casey’s calmly-taken penalty in the 57th minute ensured the students would lift the Andy Scannell Cup for the first time since 1999.
Their slick interplay carved open Castlehaven in the first half of yesterday’s decider that was attended by 7,027 patrons and the control they exerted in the opening period proved pivotal to their success as they enjoyed a 0-8 to 0-4 lead at the break.
But Castlehaven roused themselves to produce a terrifically passionate second-half display. They incrementally clawed back UCC and four consecutive points saw them draw level in the 54th minute.
Mark Collins, who inspired Castlehaven’s best moments, launched a free from over 45m that bounced on the top of the goal to ensure equality. The momentum lay firmly with the men from Union Hall and Castletownshend.
However, UCC worked the ball downfield with captain Sean Kiely central to it and when possession was worked to Paul Geaney, his progress was impeded by Castlehaven defender Liam Collins. Referee James Dorgan pointed to the spot and Casey settled the match.
The goal had a seismic twin effect. It was a sickening blow for Castlehaven to absorb after they had put so much effort in getting themselves back into contention and it infused UCC with renewed energy.
They sprung Gavan O’Grady, the attacking star for Mid Kerry in their SFC semi-final win on Saturday, from the bench and the Glenbeigh/Glencar youngster whipped over a late pair of points. Then UCC patiently ran down the clock by holding onto possession.
UCC had clearly studied the framework of their opponent’s team and targeted their areas of strength. They deprived Castlehaven at midfield early on with Johnny Buckley and Will Kennedy winning their duel against Dermot Hurley and Sean Dineen. Castlehaven struggled to supply fast, direct ball into their set of lively forwards and their two pivotal attackers also received plenty of focus from the UCC defence. Niall Daly started on their playmaker Mark Collins but he was soon picked up by Sean Kiely while closer to goal Brian Hurley was shadowed by Peter Crowley.
The moves worked for UCC, particularly in the case of Hurley who was held scoreless by the brilliant and disciplined defending of Crowley.
With their marquee attackers being held, Castlehaven struggled to forge an advantage in the first half. They were level at 0-3 apiece by the 19th minute but UCC powered on before the break and outscored their opponents by 0-5 to 0-1 in the last 11 minutes of the half. A Niall Daly point was indicative of the quality of UCC’s interplay as Casey threaded a ball through the defence, Geaney offloaded to the Roscommon man who confidently knocked the ball between the posts.
Stephen O’Brien may not have scored in the first half yet he excelled at corner-forward with his energetic play and won frees that led to scores.
The strenuous schedule of the UCC players was forecast to come against them in the second half yet they never wilted with Casey, Buckley and JB Spillane showing no ill-effects from crunch games in Kerry on Saturday. When Kiely arrowed over a point in the 37th minute, UCC were ahead 0-10 to 0-6 and in an extremely healthy position.
However Castlehaven fought back magnificently with Collins firing a brace of frees that sandwiched enterprising scores from play by Seanie Cahalane and substitute David Burns. Having drawn level, they looked on the cusp of storming ahead until Casey’s penalty changed everything.
Scorers for UCC: D Casey 1-4 (1-0 pen, 4fs), G O’Grady (1f), S Kiely 0-2 each, N Daly, J Buckley, M Griffin, P Geaney 0-1 each.
Scorers for Castlehaven: M Collins 0-5 (3fs), C Hayes, D Burns, A Cahalane, S Cahalane, B Collins 0-1 each.
Subs for UCC: J O’Sullivan (Kilcummin, Kerry) for Griffin (42), B Coughlan (Kinsale, Cork) for Beston (44), G O’Grady (Glenbeigh-Glencar, Kerry) for O’Brien (55), A Greaney (St Pat’s, Kerry) for Kennedy (blood) (58).
Subs for Castlehaven: D Burns for Whelton (36), S Hurley for A Cahalane (49).
Referee: James Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).