Billy Morgan pointed to UCC’s rousing second-half opening as the crucial period in delivering the university’s 21st Sigerson Cup success.
UCC enjoyed the backing of the elements in the first period, but headed for the dressing room at half-time only 0-6 to 0-2 in front. Morgan admitted there were deep concerns the four-point advantage would prove insufficient in holding out. Central then to the win, he added, was their blistering start at the change of ends, three white flags raised in quick succession in throwing down the gauntlet to UUJ.
“We thought at half-time our lead of four points might not be enough. We set up for the second half with just four forwards and our two wing-forwards working back in defence. We got three great points straight after half-time. That settled us and gave us a nice cushion. That seven-point cushion was decisive in the end,” he said.
“They were bound to come back at us and they did. If you look at the wides they kicked, they were under pressure when kicking each and every one of them. They were kicking from 40 and 50 yards out with our lads breathing down their necks. Our defence was superb.”
The victorious manager feared the game had swung in UUJ’s favour when Ronan O’Neill equalised for the northerners on 58 minutes, their seventh unanswered point of the final quarter, and lauded his players for not attempting to hold out for a draw thereafter, clinching the win 40 seconds from the end.
“It didn’t look good when we were a point up and had a free to go two-up but missed it and straightaway they went down and got a point to equalise. There is great fight in this team though, they never know when they are beaten and they went back up the field and got the winning point. I think we deserved our victory. I wouldn’t be in any doubt about that.
“This win is very similar to 2011. We went up that year as well ranked as no-hopers. We played DCU in the first round, UCD in the semi-final and then overcame Jordanstown in the final. We were underdogs in all three games. We had no marquee names that time and we have no marquee names this time. I think you will hear a lot about these players in years to come.”
He added: “Fifty years ago I made by debut in the Sigerson Cup right here in this very venue. We were beaten by Queen’s. Sean O’Neill, I remember, was superb for them and I have been in love with the Sigerson ever since.”
A dejected UUJ manager Adrian McGuckin said his side had left it too late in launching their comeback, a wides tally of 17 certainly not aiding their cause.
“Maybe we didn’t use the ball in the second half as well as we should have. They defended very well and made it very awkward for us. We thought we might get a draw when Ronan O’Neill equalised. Maybe it was a bit cruel the manner in which they got the winning score in the last 40 seconds.
“We told the lads at half-time to be patient, not to panic and try to get the scores back as best we can. The wides were frustrating, very frustrating. People don’t realise the effort the lads have put in and what this competition means to them. Nobody knows what winning a Sigerson means to those boys. It is very much top of their agenda at the minute.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved