Jennifer Grant drilled the free to the unmarked Niamh O’Dea and the latter’s probing delivery was gathered by Aine Tighe on the edge of the DCU square. From that range, there was only going to be one outcome.
Tighe’s second goal on 41 minutes moved the champions 3-10 to 0-7 clear. Game over. The difference between the sides, said captain and player of the match Niamh O’Dea, was perfectly captured in that passage of play.
“Look at both teams, look at all the household names. Football was never going to be the issue. It all boiled down to hunger and work-rate,” said the Clare dual player.
“All year we focused on our forwards turning over the ball and pressuring defences. Our in-house sessions were harder than any competitive game we played. It showed Saturday.”
O’Dea, along with Julia White, were members of the UL camogie team that relinquish their Ashbourne crown in last month’s decider. In her final year as a PE student, she vowed to never again sit in a defeated UL dressing room.
“There was devastation after that game, tears, all round regret at the mistakes made and this awful feeling that we had left the result behind us. I didn’t want to experience that again.”
Leading 1-9 to 0-6 at the break, the favourites sealed it within 10 minutes of the restart. Anna Galvin threatened the DCU goal, but her effort bounced off the crossbar and over. UL ’keeper Elaine Murphy produced a smart save to deny Brid O’Sullivan at the other end – a rare goal opening for DCU.
On 37 minutes, DCU’s rearguard was breached a second time. O’Dea, Galvin and Caroline McCarthy setting up Aine Tighe, the Leitrim forward firing to the top left of Aisline Tarpey’s goal.
Sarah Rowe, DCU’s strongest performer, landed her second point in response. Tighe’s second goal came moments later and, while Rowe again pointed in response, it proved their last score in 17 minutes of action. UL, through Niamh Richardson, Julia White, Jennifer Grant and Lorraine Scanlon, assumed control of the middle third. Roisin Leonard (free), O’Dea (two frees), Claire O’Sullivan (0-2) and Aileen Wall kicked six unanswered minors to complete a 16-point rout.
The North Dublin University had shown plenty of intent in the opening exchanges, but were stifled by a UL full-back line in most determined mood — target-woman Lindsay Peat well marshalled by full-back Laurie Ryan. Carol Hegarty, Rowe and Lorraine O’Shea swatted three on the hop for Gregory McGonigle’s side to level matters at 0-4 apiece after 14 minutes.
Roisin Leonard raised the first green flag from the penalty spot in the subsequent action, Katie Murray adjudged to have fouled possession. The Galway forward would kick four first-half points; Aileen Wall, Tighe and White lending a hand in laying the foundations for victory.
Concluded O’Dea: “This caps off a tremendous four years at Limerick. We lost semi-finals in 2012 and 2013, but have now established ourselves as the top ladies football college.”
R Leonard (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees); A Tighe (2-1); N O’Dea (0-3, 0-3 frees); C O’Sullivan, A Wall (0-2 each); J White, L Scanlon, A Galvin, C McCarthy (0-1 each).
S Rowe (0-3, 0-1 free); C Hegarty, L O’Shea (0-2 each); B O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
Elaine Murphy (Kerry); S Condon (Tipperary), L Ryan (Clare), B McManus (Cork); J White (Cork), N Richardson (Limerick), C Cooney (Galway); L Scanlon (Kerry), J Grant (Tipperary); A Tighe (Leitrim), N O’Dea (Clare), A Wall (Waterford); C McCarthy (Kerry), A Galvin (Kerry), R Leonard (Galway).
C O’Sullivan (Kerry) for McCarthy (40), E Buckley (Tipperary) for Cooney (46), A Considine (Clare) for Condon (49), S Everard (Tipperary) for Leonard (50), Edel Murphy (Mayo) for Elaine Murphy (54).
A Tarpey (Mayo); A Bell (Mayo), S Greene (Cavan), L Caffrey (Dublin); K Murray (Dublin), L Collins (Dublin), D Murphy (Dublin); C McManamon (Mayo), L O’Shea (Tipperary); B O’Sullivan (Cork), S Woods (Dublin), L McEnaney (Monaghan); C Hegarty (Mayo), L Peat (Dublin), S Rowe (Mayo).
E Rutledge (Dublin) for Hegarty (36), A O’Reilly (Dublin) for McManamon (48), L Fleming (Roscommon) for O’Sullivan (50), G O’Loughlin (Sligo) for Collins (55).
J Niland (Sligo).
Aine Tighe’s second and UL’s third goal on 41 minutes moved the winners 3-10 to 0-7 clear.
Players from outside the traditional forces standing tallest. Centre-back Niamh Richardson (Limerick), midfielder Jennifer Grant (Tipperary) and half-forward Aine Tighe (Leitrim) were outstanding for UL.
Another clean sheet for goalkeeper Edel Murphy meant UL went the entire O’Connor Cup competition (four games) without conceding a goal.
Contenders in every line of the field for the winners. Niamh O’Dea was their orchestrator-in-chief, pulling the attacking strings from centre-forward. Terrific left-boot. A real talent.
UL had their homework done in negating the influence of DCU’s three best semi-final contributors – Laura McEnaney, Brid O’Sullivan and Lindsay Peat. Peat was marshalled by two Limerick players for the hour, Lorraine Scanlon and Jennifer Grant ensured McEnaney didn’t figure around midfield, while O’Sullivan was substituted on 50 minutes.
John Niland opted against yellow carding Caroline McCarthy for her reckless tackle on DCU’s Brid O’Sullivan.
The majority return to their counties for the concluding stages of the national league.