It is even more important than in the Sigerson Cup, where players are competing against their peers. By their nature, a college team will be youthfully exuberant and capable of playing fantastic football. However when coming up against senior teams, they are often facing opponents with vastly superior experience and featuring players that are capable of grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck. It is almost more important to have personnel that realise when it is time to take hold of the game and to go for the jugular.
As the game entered the last five minutes, the ‘Haven had all the momentum. However when the need was greatest, up stepped their captain and man of the match Seán Kiely who made a great drive from centre half-back and slipped a good pass to Paul Geaney who was bundled to the ground for a penalty. Daithí Casey, who had been flawless all day, buried it and UCC were now closing in on the Andy Scannell Cup. Despite the little battles and duels that made up the game the chutzpah shown by Kiely proved the difference.
As usual the midfield battle was going to be pivotal. UCC held sway here for the first half, which gave them a four-point lead at the break. Johnny Buckley, Will Kennedy and JB Spillane, who withdrew from wing forward, dominated the air and were energetic on the ground. Their supremacy allowed the college half-back line to play on the front foot and attack, with three points coming from this sector during the course of the game.
It also meant Castlehaven never got a foothold there for long enough to supply their full forward line with sufficient ammunition. Buckley and Spillane had both played full games in the county semi-finals on Saturday in Killarney.
Predictably they both tired in the second half and their drop in energy levels unsurprisingly coincided with the Castlehaven resurgence.
However UCC never panicked and defended resolutely during the period of Castlehaven dominance.
In particular the full back line of Peter Crowley, Matthew Galvin and Martin Hickey were outstanding during this phase of pressure.
The depth of the college panel was also a crucial factor in victory. The players that they were able to bring on all added to the team. Gavin O’Grady, who was introduced late on, is a perfect example of this. He was man of the match for Mid Kerry on Saturday in Killarney — not a bad substitute to have in reserve.
On his introduction he immediately scored a point and was fouled for another, which he converted. Jamie O’Sullivan, Brian Coughlan and David Culhane all contributed when introduced.
Unsurprisingly Castlehaven just did not have this strength and depth and their subs did not really impact. They are a remarkable club in so many ways and the fact that they are even competing at senior level is impressive, never mind contesting a county final. This will be no consolation to them though and I am sure they are already planning how they can improve and win back the cup.
WHEN they eventually revisit the game to learn and improve they will rue their indiscipline. They are a team that play on the edge. It is part of their identity and it is part of their appeal. However UCC wound up getting 1-5 from frees. Daithí Casey was imperious in his kicking duties including two frees with his right and two with his left in the first half. The frees were conceded by a combination of over aggression, inexperience and rashness. They will look to improve this aspect of their game. Also on reflection when they examine the make up of their forwards they will realise that they might have swapped Seán Cahalane and Mark Collins earlier as they both benefited from this exchange.
It is an outstanding achievement for some of the UCC players to have won both a Sigerson Cup and a county championship in one year. We will see many of them in their county colours in the near future. There may be some complications ahead if Dr Crokes win the county championship in Kerry. However I have a feeling UCC are not finished yet. Will they be able to match the class of 1999 and add a Munster club championship to their collection? I don’t see why not.