For a competition as crammed and mistreated as the Sigerson Cup often is, it has a habit of consistently producing complete and utter thrillers. After extra-time at a packed Dangan, the 2022 champions are out.
Last year’s beaten finalists were their conquerors.
University of Limerick were full value for their victory, coming back from a 2-3 to 0-6 deficit at the turnaround to lead by a point with the clock moving past the hour mark. Maurice Sheridan had turned to his bench and summed Galway captain Sean Kelly, who then kicked a last-gasp equaliser to force another twenty minutes of action. An exceptional point coming just moments after he hit the woodwork.
It was a remarkable conclusion to normal time and one that only scratches the surface of this story’s drama.
“Unbelievable. The togetherness of this group… What a feeling. Unbelievable. I’m stuck for words,” said centre-forward Emmet McMahon post-match.
“We felt in the first half we dominated the game on everything except the scoreboard. That gave us a lot of faith. The two goals were soft but we could do better. We knew we were in the game against the wind. Once we kept building, we’d finally get it.”
The home side started with a roar. Mark McInerney and Ger Davoren both used their physicality around the square to land two early goals. Playing in his seventh game this month, Matthew Tierney once again led the way with a pair of frees and a superb solo point pushing them clear.
To their credit, Limerick never looked down or took a backwards step.
They brought on Young Footballer of the Year Jack Glynn and Kerry’s Paul Walsh to help drive their charge.
Throughout they drew immense power from a hugely athlete half-back line with Mayo’s Eoghan McLaughlin and Jack Coyne both having their moments while Cork’s Darragh Cashman was outstanding, pulling off a textbook last-ditch tackle on Kelly and kicking two superb points for good measure.
Paul Keaney kicked seven frees in the opening hour before he was sent off in the final minute. His effort in the 48th minute drew the sides level. From the resulting kick-out, Limerick pressed the short option and turned it over before a calm Walsh lobbed the keeper and turned the game on its head.
A pair of Galway frees and the Kelly boomer sent the tie to extra-time. The sides were still level after ten anxious minutes. Time for a hero to step forward.
Gearoid Hassett won the free and sent out the signal. Emmet McMahon was afforded an opportunity; the foul had been committed on the 45 close to the sideline. A pressure moment and he delivered, his second long range score of the day. Ciaran Downes tacked on one more score to close it out.
“After 70 minutes at the weekend maybe I shouldn’t have taken them on,” McMahon said with a smile.
“We’ve lots to look forward to now in the next week and a lot of improving to do. We’ll enjoy this win and go from there.”
Matthew Tierney 0-5 (4 frees), Ger Davoren 1-1, Mark McInerney 1-0, Paul Kelly 0-3 (3 frees), Sean Kelly 0-1.
Paul Keaney 0-7 (7 frees),Paul Walsh 1-1, Emmet McMahon 0-2 (2 frees), Darragh Cashman 0-2, Mark Lenehan 0-1, Ciaran Downes 0-2.
C Carroll (Galway); C Corcoran (Galway), C Murray (Galway), R Egan (Offaly); E Kelly (Galway), S O’Flynn (Laois), C Dunleavy (Mayo); G Davoren (Galway), P Kelly (Galway); C Monaghan (Galway), M Tierney (Galway), D Flaherty (Galway); G Burke (Galway), M McInerney (Galway), C Sweeney (Galway).
D Hunt (Galway) for Monaghan (37), D Heneghan (Roscommon) for Burke (43), S Kelly (Galway) for O’Flynn (46), P O’Donnell (Galway) for Egan (54), R Monaghan (Galway) for McInerney (f-t), C Donoghue (Offaly) for Dunleavy (f-t), J McLoughlin (Galway) for O’Donnell (71), P McGrath (Roscommon) for E Kelly (75).
C Flaherty (Galway); J O’Brien (Offaly), C Moriarty (Kerry), M Dempsey (Kildare); D Cashman (Cork), J Coyne (Mayo), E McLaughlin (Mayo); P Keaney (Leitrim), D Walsh (Clare); C Downes (Clare), E McMahon (Clare), I Ugweuru (Clare); M Lenehan (Cork), S McDonnell (Cork), J Hayes (Limerick).
P Walsh (Kerry) for Lenehan (h-t), J Glynn (Galway) for Cashman (46), A Griffin (Clare) for Ugweuru (55), C Dempsey (Mayo) for Hayes (57), C Glennon (Roscommon) (15th man, f-t), G Hassett (Kerry) for Keaney (f-t), D Mangan (Kerry) for D Walsh (f-t), Cashman for O’Brien (f-t), McDonnell for Moriarty (69), E Connolly (Cork) for McMahon (78).
Chris Maguire (Clare).