For the second successive week, UCD required extra-time before eventually prevailing past Ulster opposition, edging St Mary’s Belfast by four points in their Sigerson Cup quarter-final at Billings Park on Sunday.
The hosts showed their battling qualities when edging UUJ a week previously and they showed admirable control in extra-time to secure their place in the semi-finals thanks to goals from Ryan O’Toole and Gary Walsh.
A far more comfortable progression looked likely as they entered injury time with a three point advantage but a lack of concentration in defence was punished as Matthew McGleenan fired home after Owen McCabe’s initial attempt had been partially blocked.
Extra-time was a replica of the previous 60 minutes as the hosts looked more assured in their overall play and while St Mary’s reduced the damage of O’Toole’s goal with two unanswered points, they proved powerless to recover from Walsh’s smartly taken goal with two minutes remaining.
In a typically cagey and defensively orientated first-half, it was Walsh that opened the scoring through a free in the 8th minute in what was, remarkably, the first attempt on goal from either side.
Walsh doubled his tally three minutes later with another free before St Mary’s finally showed some attacking quality as Ruairi Rafferty fed Owen McCabe for a well-taken point in the 13 th minute.
McCabe looked lively all afternoon and after his team had fallen further behind following scores from UCD’s Barry McGinn and Walsh, he highlighted his aerial ability in the 19 th minute when flicking home past Gary O’Rourke from Ryan Coleman’s speculative shot.
Crucially, they struggled to build on that score, allowing their opponents to dictate the pace of the game and an excellent score from Conor Hartley and Walsh’s fourth point of the half ensured a 0-6 to 1-1 interval lead for UCD.
St Marys’ deficit was halved within three minutes of the restart as Tomas Carney popped over an excellent score while at the opposite end of the field, Peader Ó Cofaigh Byrne could well have netted but for a superb block from James Diamond.
The contest threatened to open up at various stages but the heavy emphasis on defence remained with St Mary’s enjoying a fair degree of territory thanks to enterprising forays from Liam Rafferty and Con Kilpatrick.
UCD full-back Mike Breen, who produced another solid showing, joined the attack to telling effect to kick a cracking point in the 50th minute with Rafferty gaining tangible reward for his efforts with an equally brilliant score at the opposite end four minutes later.
By that stage, the hosts had lost Kieran Kennedy to the sin bin but still managed to carve out a number of presentable opportunities with Emmet Moloney putting the finishing touches to a sweeping move that cut St Mary’s open.
Oisin O’Neill and Walsh traded points to ensure the three point buffer remained entering injury time with McGleenan in the right place at the right time to ensure a 0-10 to 2-4 stalemate at full-time.
Neither team covered themselves in glory in a soporific opening eight minutes of extra-time but centre-back O’Toole’s finish across Rory Burns raised the quality in an instant.
McCabe and O’Neill raised optimism of further drama as the second-half saw UCD retreat further towards their own goal but they were finally able to relax as Sean Egan poked the ball to Walsh, who settled the issue in an emphatic manner.
Scorers for UCD: G Walsh (1-5, 3f), R O’Toole (1-0), M Breen, C Hartley, P Ó Cofaigh Byrne, B McGinn, E Moloney (0-1 each).
Scorers for St Mary’s: O McCabe (1-2), M McGleenan (1-0), O O’Neill (0-2, frees), T Carney, L Rafferty (0-1 each).
UCD: G O’Rourke; C O’Shea, M Breen, M O’Connor; L Flatman, S Coen, R O’Toole; B O’Sullivan, P Ó Cofaigh Byrne; L Fortune, B McGinn, K Kennedy; C Hartley, R Connellan, G Walsh.
Subs: A Mohan for McGinn (42), F Clifford for Hartley (45), E Moloney for Flatman (50), C Moriarty for Mohan (61), McGinn for Fortune (61), S Egan for McGinn (71), R McCormack for Clifford (78), E Harkin for Kennedy (80).
ST MARY’S BELFAST: R Burns; C McKinney, L Rafferty, J Diamond; C McAllister, R McCusker, T Carney; L Devlin, O O’Neill; J McCartan, R Coleman, C Kilpatrick; R McSherry, O McCabe, R Rafferty.
Subs: C McConville for McCartan (17), M McGleenan for Coleman (50), P Quigg for Devlin (50), McCartan for McSherry (71), T Sludden for McConville (78).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).