As a retired high school teacher it should come as no surprise that Barney McAleenan has his homework done. Thoroughly done, at that.
When asked to assess opponents DCU ahead of this afternoon’s Sigerson Cup semi-final, the UUJ manager proceeds to list off their entire starting team, and the substitutes he expects to be sprung from the bench.
From one to 15, he names each player without pause, before adding in their native county and a general comment on the player’s ability.
“They have a very powerful half-forward line in Diarmuid O’Connor from Mayo, Mickey Quinn from Longford and Davy Byrne of Dublin,” is his summation of DCU’s three half-forwards. “The inside trio gets no easier,” he continues, singing the praises of Enda Smith, Conor McGraynor and Shane Carey.
Having looked at the draw when it was made back in early December, McAleenan quickly realised that unless the reigning champions or his own crop fell to a surprise bolter in the opening two rounds, the two Universities would collide at the semi-final juncture. He made it his business then to keep an eye on Niall Moyna’s side and admits to having watched the North Dublin University on three occasions this season, describing their league final against UCD before Christmas as one of the best games of football he has seen in a very long time.
Surely, then, UUJ shouldn’t be hit with a single surprise when referee Pádraig Hughes tosses the ball into the sky at 3pm.
“We had our homework done when they came up to us last year, but dealing with them is another kettle of fish,” quips McAleenan of their first round meeting in 2015 which DCU won by 3-10 to 0-10.
“In the first 10 minutes of that game, we could have been five or six points up. Then DCU came through the middle and got two goals and we were chasing the game after that. Had we got the scores early on last year, it could have been a different game. It wasn’t, and they went on to win the competition outright.”
Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor aside, this year’s UUJ team is an almost carbon copy of the 2015 class.
On his side McAleenan commented: “They are a special group. They have managed to balance their studies, their county commitments and the Sigerson.
“I have no doubt that come Friday they will represent the University and the jersey with pride.”
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