Best to take up proceedings with 10 minutes remaining in the second-half. This was where it got particularly interesting, save for two UCC goals within 10 seconds of each other early in the opening period. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to them. Their inclusion is mandatory given it was the sole occasion during the game where Billy Morgan’s charges showed any bit of economy in front of goal.
Speaking of Billy, the UCC boss was forced to watch the game from outside the fence after being disciplined during their quarter-final encounter.
St Mary’s had the elements in their face turning around at half-time and entering the 50th minute, Paddy Tally’s side had yet to register a single score in the second-half. They trailed by 2-5 to 1-6 and would have been further behind had UCC travelled west with a free-taker.
In a rare foray into the opposition half, the ball was shuffled through the hands of Matthew Fitzpatrick, Colm Byrne, Cathal McShane and Darragh Kavanagh. The final pass was floated high to Ciaran Corrigan and the Fermanagh man palmed the ball into Michael Martin’s goal.
UCC engineered a ’45 in the ensuing play, but the kick of sub Stephen Sherlock, the fourth UCC player to be handed dead-ball duties, dropped short.
Killian Spillane, having been successful with two second-half frees and unsuccessful with one or two more, had responsibility thrust back in his direction when a free was awarded in the subsequent action. His effort also lacked sufficient legs.
The northerners, who operated with an almost double blanket in the second period, edged two in front following a fine Corey Quinn point. And in a game where scores were such a scarce commodity, two points was a sizeable lead with three minutes remaining.
Then came a significant hammer blow to UCC’s bid to make a sixth Sigerson final in eight years. Adrian Spillane, who had put in a solid shift up to this juncture, was black carded. He’d seen yellow in the first-half and so the red card was brandished.
Their body count was further reduced when sub Alan O’Donovan was dismissed on a straight red for a challenge on Corrigan.
The Cork university, to their credit, hung in there and a Brian O’Driscoll free cut the gap to the minimum. Four minutes of injury time was indicated. Instead, referee James Molloy played six and a half. He gave the Cork students two frees during this period. Neither were run-of-the-mill, but, by the same token, neither were impossible. Crucially, neither were converted. Both landed shy of the target. The latter fell to Sherlock whose fisted effort didn’t have the required oomph.
St Mary’s enjoyed the backing of the wind in the first-half but found themselves two goals in arrears after five minutes. Ian Maguire did well to flick Brian O’Driscoll’s delivery to the net for the opener. There wasn’t as much work involved in the second. Mark Reid opted for a quick restart. It landed straight into Maguire’s arms. He fed Bambury and the Dingle forward applied a clinical finish.
The northeners regrouped and landed 1-3 without reply – Matthew Fitzpatrick goaled after Oisin O’Neill’s kick came back down off the post – to square matters. They’d snuck in front come the interval, 1-6 to 2-2, and while their defensive set-up, anchored by Tyrone’s Conor Meyler, limited the impact of Killian Spillane and Bambury upon the restart, UCC’s downfall was largely of their own making.
M Fitzpatrick (1-1); C Corrigan (1-0); O O’Neill (0-3, 0-2 frees); K McGreary (0-2 frees); C Quinn (0-1).
C Bambury (1-1); I Maguire (1-0); B O’Driscoll (0-3, 0-1 free); K Spillane (0-2 frees).
M Martin (Cork); C Begley (Kerry), F Clifford (Kerry), J Foley (Kerry); K Crowley (Cork), S Cronin (Cork), T O’Sullivan (Kerry); R O’Toole (Cork), I Maguire (Cork); B O’Driscoll (Cork), A Spillane (Kerry), J Kennedy (Tipperary); R Buckley (Kerry), K Spillane (Kerry), C Bambury (Kerry).
K Flahive (Cork) for Begley (HT); A O’Donovan (Cork) for O’Toole (41); S Sherlock (Cork) for Buckley (46).
M Reid (Down); K Mallon (Armagh), A McKay (Armagh), R Mooney (Derry); C Byrne (Tyrone), C Meyler (Tyrone), K McGeary (Tyrone); B Óg McGilligan (Derry), O O’Neill (Armagh); C Corrigan (Fermanagh), C McCann (Tyrone), S McConville (Down); K McKernan (Down), M Fitzpatrick (Antrim).
C Quinn (Down) for McCann (31, bc); C Mac Iomhar (Armagh) for McGeary (47, bc); D Kavanagh (Tyrone) for McGilligan (50); A Nugent (Armagh) for McConville (60).
J Molloy (Galway).