UCC captain Paul Geaney says the semi-final win over Maynooth with only 13 men provided the belief to claim the scalp of Sigerson Cup favourites UUJ in Saturday’s decider.
A gale-force wind had backed their first-half endeavours in Friday’s penultimate round clash, but the Cork University managed only a slender 1-6 to 0-6 interval advantage. The final would prove a carbon copy of the Maynooth tie with Billy Morgan’s outfit, having again enjoyed the elements, ahead 0-6 to 0-2 at the break, by no means an insurmountable target for UUJ.
On both occasions UCC were expected to be reeled in, both times they held firm. Belief, insisted Geaney, who missed last year’s decider through a broken L5 vertebrae, was paramount.
“In the Maynooth game we lost two men and that stood to us in the final. There was a massive belief there. If we could do it with 13, we stood a great chance with 15-on-15,” said the third year PE and Irish student.
“Nobody was giving us a chance at half-time in the Maynooth game, but we showed the counter-attacking football we could play. We got our hands on the ball against the wind and ran at the opposition. We were superb going up the lines, the fitness from the likes of Conor Dorman and Tom Clancy was savage. The yards covered by midfielders Ian McGuire and David Nation was incredible.
“There were no concerns at half-time against UUJ our lead mightn’t be enough. When Ronan O’Neill kicked the equaliser for UUJ with two minutes to go, I think we just wanted to get our hands on the ball. That was the first priority because we lost a few kick-outs leading up to that. If we had the ball we knew we could counter-attack. We always thought at 0-9 all we could get the winning point even with UUJ having the momentum. We never wanted to hold out for extra-time. The belief instilled and the togetherness really showed when times got tough out there. I don’t know how we pulled it out of the bag.”
Geaney alluded to the three points tallied early in the second-half as crucial, but admitted there was a strong sense of unease as UCC failed to raise a flag over the ensuing 21 minutes. “That was a worry that we went so long in the second-half without scoring. We were really under the cosh. The wind started to really pick up and they got completely on top in midfield.
“Our backs, to be fair, stood up, they have been incredible all weekend. Fergal McNamara had a superb game against Jamie Clarke. The full-back line really stood up to be counted and then the fitness of our half-back line was immense.
“You are going to look back in four and five years time and you will look at this UCC Sigerson team and you will say there are now 14, 15 of them playing inter-county. We are just so young and I don’t think people realise that at the moment.”
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