After missing a hatful of chances both in regulation time and early in extra time, Ulster University finally capitalised on their superior power up front thanks to goals from Ryan McHugh and Michael McEvoy.
Ulster University had led late in the match by three points before scores by Seamus Carroll and Eoin Cleary, twice from placed balls and the last of them deep into injury-time, put Garda College back on level terms and forced the tie into extra-time.
But Garda could only score once more during that additional period, a brilliant point by Cleary from the left wing, while UU added 2-1 and that was enough.
It was a match which boiled over at times, particularly in a second half which yielded three red cards — two for Ulster University and one for Garda — and was ultra-competitive until the second of those goals was converted.
Both of the goals were fisted efforts, Ryan McHugh getting on the end of a passing move involving Mark Bradley and Niall Madine, and shortly after the turnaround McEvoy finished off some nice inter-passing by Paddy McBrearty, Cathal Boylan, and Niall Madine.
Credit must go to the Garda College for hanging in there and forcing the match to extra-time, with Carlow midfielder Brendan Murphy at the heart of much of what they did, pulling off a couple of marks and generally proving hard to mark.
But Ulster University’s own inter-county stars were crucial to the winning effort as Paddy McBrearty weighed in with six frees and a point from play while Ryan McHugh was always a nuisance and scored that first goal which put some daylight between the teams.
Niall Madine turned in an excellent display, with four points from play, as did Ethan Rafferty and that quality and ability to manufacture scores could see the Ulster side go a good deal further in this competition.
In his fifth Sigerson campaign, Niall McKeever was as influential as ever until he was red-carded for a high tackle midway through the second half. Gareth McKinless also saw red, for a black card which followed a yellow. That black card was for bringing down Eoin Cleary when a goal looked certain for Garda, and Andy Tormey’s penalty was well saved by Sean Fox.
The other red of the game was for a second yellow for James Morris, whose late tackle prompted a bit of a free-for-all before the officials got things settled down.
In the end, UU were good value for their win.
P McBrearty 0-7 (6F), N Madine 0-4, R McHugh 1-1, E Rafferty 0-3, M McEvoy 1-0.
T McDaniel 0-6 (5F), S Carroll 0-2, C Fitzmaurice 0-2, P Morris 0-1, Brendan Murphy 0-1, E Cleary 0-1.
S Fox, R Kelly, R Johnstone, R McNamee, S Sheridan, G McKinless, R McAnespie, N McKeever, T O’Brien, R McHugh, E Rafferty, R McGlone, P McBrearty, N Madine, M Bradley.
E McHugh for S Sheridan (17m), M McEvoy for R McGlone, T Clarke for G McKinless (60m), N Walsh for N McKeever (60m) C Boylan for R McAnespie, (64m), J Kearney for T O’Brien (75m), D Gallagher for M Bradley.
S Murphy, S O’Malley, G Petit, J Morris, B Kane, T Featherstone, P Morris, B Murphy, D Gallagher, S Carroll, A Tormey, C Fitzmaurice, E Cleary, P Kelleher, T McDaniel.
G Ennis for P Kelleher (10m), K Tarrant for G Petit (35m, black card), D Dwyer for C Fitzmaurice (40m), K Nugent for B Kane (42m), P Kelleher for J Morris (60m).
J Molloy (Galway).