UL manager Brian Carson said that the character built up in the squad is the primary reason they are now preparing for their first Sigerson Cup semi-final since 1997.
They deservedly ousted favourites Queen’s in decent conditions at UL, when a blistering start — which saw them lead by 0-8 to 0-0 after just 14 minutes — paved the way.
But Queen’s stormed back, and when they drew level with 11 minutes left and UL struggling, it seemed as if the Belfast college would advance.
However, UL regrouped and with both sides missing chances to nail it, up stepped Bryan O’Shea from Kerry’s Dr Crokes to shoot the winner in the dying moments with his eighth point of the contest from a 25-metre free.
“Our primary goal at the start of the year was to get to the Sigerson Cup weekend,” said Carson, himself a Sigerson winner with DCU in 1996.
“We got off to a flying start, took some good scores and we are a good footballing side, and I think we showed that in the first 15 minutes.But the team doesn’t just have skill, it has character and that showed to come back and get the winner.”
Queen’s manager James McCartan didn’t want to take anything away from UL’s victory, but the row over player eligibility this week did little to help their cause.
McCartan himself was banned for 12 weeks but that was one of a number of suspensions rescinded, although they had to line out without Armagh’s Ciaran O’Hanlon.
“We have been led a merry dance. I’m no lawyer but all I know is that I was suspended as manager of the team which didn’t play any illegal players.
“Ciaran O’Hanlon would be a star performer for us, but I don’t want to take anything from UL, they won on the field and on merit,” said McCartan.
O’Shea and Limerick’s Kevin Moore led the early onslaught for UL, with the introduction of Antrim’s Brendan Bradley helping Queen’s after half-time as they clawed back the deficit. Marty Clarke finished a low shot to the net after 47 minutes to cut the gap to two but after Bradley and Fermanagh’s Ruari Corrigan pointed to level, the Down star and former Aussie Rules player picked up a black card.
Both sides had chances to go in front but the only score in the last 11 minutes was O’Shea’s free two minutes from the end to book a semi-final against UCD next week.
B O’Shea (0-8, 6f), K Moore (0-2, 2f), A Rowan (0-1), R Deane (0-1).
M Clarke (1-2, 2f), B Bradley (0-4, 3f), B Burns, R Corrigan (0-1).
C O’Driscoll (Cork); E Kiely (Kerry), C Long (Kerry), P O’Connor (Kerry); A Rowan (Longford), D Daly (Kerry), F Boland (Mayo); G Hegarty (Limerick), R Deane (Cork); D Neville (Limerick), S Killoran (Roscommon), C Sheehan (Limerick); I Burke (Galway), K Moore (Limerick), B O’Shea (Kerry).
C O’Dea (Clare) for Sheehan (52 mins), James Naughton (Limerick) for Killoran (45), P White (Limerick) for Rowan (60).
J Deeney (Down); G McCabe (Armagh), C Cullen (Fermanagh), B Burns (Tyrone); N Delargy (Antrim), S Heffron (Armagh), M Monan (Down); B Rogers (Derry), H Brown (Down); A Morgan (Down), M Clarke (Down), R Corrigan (Fermanagh); R Murray (Antrim), G McGovern (Down), D McAleese (Antrim).
B Bradley (Antrim) for Monan (30 mins), C Martin (Armagh) for McAleese (47), A Doherty (Down) for Clarke (BC, 56).
Sean Hehir (Galway).