There followed the disconsolate figures of manager John Divilly and the college’s GAA officer Dave Billings. All three men delivered the same message: we have been robbed.
Their angst lay not with opponents DCU, but rather referee Rory Hickey – the Clare official chastised by both Mullins and Billings as he departed the field.
Minutes earlier the UCD management team had celebrated as sub Jack Barry split the posts, their fifth point on the hop, to move the South Dublin University into the ascendancy for the first time in this semi-final.
The clock showed 58 minutes, the scoreline reading 0-11 to 1-7. The underdogs moved within reach of a first final appearance in 12-years. DCU had added to their tally only once in the second period.
Worse still, they had kicked just two points since moving 1-5 to 0-1 in front after 10 minutes. The exit door loomed.
One minute into second-half stoppages, DCU sub Conor McGraynor was hauled to the floor inside the large parallelogram. Hickey pointed to the spot. Penalty. UCD cried foul. Enda Smith, the contributor of 1-3 in the first-half, stepped forward. UCD goalkeeper Eoin Keogh saved his tame initial effort, the Boyle full-forward reacting quickest to the rebound in blasting to the net.
Colm Begley dispatched a close-range free thereafter to seal a most unlikely victory – DCU advancing to a third decider in six years.
Manager Niall Moyna never believed the result had slipped from their grasp, informing Smith to seek a green flag from the injury-time spot-kick. Extra-time they did not fancy.
“I told him go for the goal,” he revealed. “We weren’t interested in drawing. If you have the chance to win it, why do anything else?
“I didn’t think it was gone from us. This team has been down in matches all year. They were nine-points down to UCC in the league semi-final and came back and won by six.
“We went up to play a very good Jordanstown team and came back winners. We were up against it against Mary’s, they went a point ahead in injury-time and we came back. This team finds a way. There’s great character in the team. We had a bit of luck today but those are the vagaries of sport. We’ll take the luck any way we can get it.”
The favourites looked set to secure a comfortable semi-final victory when surging 1-5 to 0-1 clear after 10 minutes. Conor Meredith, Conor McHugh (free), Conor Moynagh and Enda Smith (0-2) all nailed the target as Moyna’s charges outfought and outclassed UCD at every turn – Steven O’Brien and Moynagh most impressive on the break. Their superiority reached a crescendo when Smith, set-up by Fintan Kelly, blasted to the net for the opening goal of the contest.
A second green flag should have been added approaching the break, UCD full-back David Byrne superbly keeping out Meredith’s drive. Divilly’s outfit had steadied the ship by this juncture– John Heslin (0-2 frees), Eoghan Nolan and Conor Lenehan raising white flags, 1-6 to 0-4 the interval difference.
DCU’s advantage was further eroded at the change of ends as UCD assumed complete control – Heslin, Brian Fenton and Niall Kelly splitting the posts. There ensued a most dramatic and controversial final act.
Added Moyna: “I think in the first-half in particular was when we had the problem. The game should have been over. We missed probably 1-4 or 1-5 and left it behind us. And then they got a sniff and a purple patch, and they were absolutely brilliant in the second-half. They threw everything at us.
“But funny, even when they came back at us and went ahead, I said to the selectors on the line, ‘No, this team finds a way.”
Indeed, they did.
Scorers for DCU: E Smith (2-3); C Moynagh, C Meredith, C McHugh (0-1 free), C Begley (0-1 free), C McGraynor (0-1 each).
Scorers for UCD: J Heslin (0-5, 0-4 frees); N Kelly (0-2); E Nolan, J Barry, C Lenehan, B Fenton (0-1 each).
T Lowe (Roscommon); J Smith (Dublin), C Boyle (Monaghan), C Daly (Roscommon); D Ward (Monaghan), C Moynagh (Cavan), C Begley (Laois); F Kelly (Roscommon), S O’Brien (Tipperary); D O’Connor (Mayo), C Meredith (Laois), D Wrynn (Leitrim); E Smith (Roscommon), D Smith (Roscommon), C McHugh (Dublin).
Subs: C McGraynor (Wicklow) for O’Connor (HT), R Connor (Longford) for Kelly (HT), N Murphy (Sligo) for McHugh (37 mins), D Mannix (Kerry) for D Smith (46 mins), S Carey (Monaghan) for Meredith (47), M Quinn (Longford) for Carey (bc, 52).
E Keogh (Laois); R Wylie (Monaghan), D Byrne (Dublin), A Ó Murchú (Wicklow); M Deegan (Meath), C Mulally (Dublin), M Ó Cathalán (Dublin); J Heslin (Westmeath), C Sheridan (Meath); B Fenton (Dublin), J McCaffrey (Dublin), E Nolan (Wexford); N Kelly (Kildare), M Hughes (Longford), R Basquel (Dublin).
Subs: M O’Hanlon (Wexford) for Nolan (bc, 23 mins), C Lenehan (Meath) for Sheridan (25), R McDaid (Dublin) for Deegan (30 mins), S O’Dea (Limerick) for Ó Cathalán (HT), J Barry (Kerry) for Basquel (45), S Kilcoyne (Sligo) for Lenehan (57).
R Hickey (Clare).