Football games in November generally follow a pattern of dour and low-scoring affairs but this tie was a welcome exception. It was a match characterised by some splendid score-taking and a dramatic finish in normal time. Monaleen looked to have claimed victory, when after a frenzied scramble near the UCC goalmouth in the 62nd minute, the ball fell to corner-back Darren Burke who stabbed a shot to the net.
That score nudged Monaleen into a 2-12 to 1-14 lead yet crucially UCC never panicked. They worked the ball upfield before Peter Crowley was felled as he dashed through the Monaleen defence. The immense pressure did not perturb Jamie O’Sullivan as he faced the free from over 45 yards and he smacked a terrific shot over the bar.
“I could hardly look when Jamie was lining up to it,” revealed a breathless UCC manager Paul O’Keeffe. “It was a brilliant kick. The lads might not have panicked on the pitch but I certainly did on the sideline at the end. I think we’ve just gone through enough tight games this year to know what to do in those situations and that was key.”
In extra-time, UCC maintained the impetus derived from that equaliser. Gavan O’Grady and Paul Geaney, their twin attacking threats who struck 1-11 between them, knocked over points to see UCC lead 1-19 to 2-14 at the midway stage. Monaleen substitute Muiris Gavin, who showed that he lost none of the outstanding marksmanship from his days as the hub of the Limerick attack, tapped over a free in the 74th minute that trimmed the gap to one but they could not send the match to a replay. UCC ran down the clock brilliantly by passing the ball around the pitch in the remaining minutes and booked a semi-final place.
“It did worry me going into extra-time that the fresh college legs would have the edge on us,” admitted Monaleen coach Micheál McDermott.
“They’re very good at holding onto the ball and we just couldn’t get our hands on it in extra-time. We gave so much and it was just disappointing to come away with defeat. But it was a fantastic game of football and our players left the field with honour.”
The match concluded with the Monaleen players being applauded on route to their dressing-room by their own supporters and their UCC opponents, which was a reflection of their fine efforts on the day.
Full-back Barry Fitzpatrick and midfielder Paul Kinnerk were outstanding, and with Luke Kavanagh goaling in the 15th minute, they were 1-3 to 0-1 ahead.
However UCC overcame that sluggish start to fight back into contention. They kicked the last four points of the first-half to move back into contention and were boosted early in the second-half when O’Grady netted after O’Sullivan hammered a drive off the crossbar. Martin Hickey and Crowley were in powerful form at the back but they had plenty problems stifling the threats of Jason O’Brien, Gavin and Mike Crowley. Yet the kicking of O’Grady, Geaney and Stephen O’Brien at the other end was instrumental in UCC’s success. After lining out without three of their county final winning team, O’Keeffe was glad with how UCC responded.
“You could see the difference in the way we played today without the two Dr Crokes boys. Johnny’s presence in the middle of the park has been massive for us and then we missed a few frees early on in the game that Daithí would definitely have stuck over. Mike Griffin had a league promotion game with Na Gaeil so we missed what he brings to the team as well. But I think today will focus our minds going forward and we’re relieved to get out of it.”
Scorers for UCC: P Geaney 0-7 (0-4f), G O’Grady 1-4 (0-2f), J O’Sullivan 0-3 (0-2 ‘45), S O’Brien 0-2, M Hickey, D O’Sullivan, JB Spillane 0-1 each.
Scorers for Monaleen: M Gavin 0-5 (0-2f), L Kavanagh 1-1, M Crowley 0-3 (0-1f), D Burke 1-0, G Collins (0-1f), J O’Brien 0-2 each, S Hickey, P Russell 0-1 each.
UCC: S Mellett (Carrigaline, Cork); M Galvin (Ballymacelligot), M Hickey (Carrignavar), P Crowley (Laune Rangers); T Clancy (Fermoy), N Daly (Padraig Pearses), S Kiely (Macroom); W Kennedy (St Michaels), J O’Sullivan (Kilcummin); JB Spillane (Castlegregory), S Beston (Mitchelstown), B Coughlan (Kinsale); S O’Brien (Kenmare), G O’Grady (Glenbeigh/Glencar), P Geaney (Dingle).
Subs: D Culhane (Ballylongford) for Kennedy (43), A Greaney (St Pat’s Blennerville) for O’Brien (60), S Hannifin (Ballyteague) for Coughlan (52), D O’Sullivan (Dingle) for Beston (56), Coughlan for O’Grady (inj) (64), Kennedy for Hannifin (70).
MONALEEN: D O’Sullivan; D Burke, B Fitzpatrick, F Nash; P Quinn, R Murray, S Hickey; B Geary, P Kinnerk; P Russell, C Walsh, M Crowley; G Collins, L Kavanagh, J O’Brien.
Subs: M Gavin for Walsh (half-time), J Hoare for Geary (38), E Keating for Quinn (63), S Leonard for Kinnerk (inj) (70).
Referee: Maurice Condon (Waterford).