UCC v NUI Maynooth, The Dub, 3.30pm, (B Cassidy, Derry)
Last year’s defeated finalists, UCC, are at this stage for the fifth consecutive year under the management of Billy Morgan. In terrible conditions against Trinity College, they showed a maturity in game-management, while the quarter-final win against neighbours Cork IT they showcased their attacking potency.
Any one of the full-forward line of Tipperary’s Michael Quinlivan and Kerrymen Paul Geaney and Conor Cox can score heavily, while the all-Cork half-forward unit of Luke Connolly, Alan Cronin and Brian O’Driscoll is perfectly balanced. Ian Maguire is developing into a top-class midfielder and in defence Conor Dorman is showing why he has become a part of the Cork panel. But they will face a test tougher than either of the previous two against today’s opponents. NUI Maynooth have reigning Footballer of the Year Michael Dara Macauley in their ranks and he forms an excellent midfield with Dean Kelly. Their attack is also laden with quality, such as Paddy McBrearty (Donegal), Paddy Brophy and Paul Cribbin (both Kildare) and Meath’s Eamonn Wallace. How their half-backs, Kildare’s Fergal Conway, Jamie Gonoud (Westmeath) and Eric Lowndes of Dublin, deal with their opponents could be crucial.
UUJ v UCD, The Dub, 5.30pm, (M Higgins, Fermanagh)
As it stands, UUJ – who beat holders Dublin IT – are the outright favourites for success and it’s not hard to see why. Their side is like a who’s who of rising Ulster talent, so much so that five of their starlets could face three games in three days if they make it tomorrow’s final. Rory Beggan, Colin Walshe and Kieran Hughes (all Monaghan), Tyrone’s Matthew Donnelly and Chrissy McKaigue of Derry are all part of the Ulster side for the Interprovincial Championship final against Connacht on Sunday, and in Caolán O’Boyle (Derry) and Armagh’s Jamie Clarke they have a pair of lethal inside forwards. Goalkeeper Rory Beggan of Monaghan is also excellent and Tyrone’s Ronan O’Neill directs operations from centre-forward.
The competition’s most successful college, UCD, have 32 triumphs, but none since 1996 while they haven’t been in a final since 2003. They certainly have enough quality in their ranks to dream of ending that drought, however, with Dublin stars Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey their marquee names. McCaffrey anchors a solid half-back line with Meath pair Pádraic Harnan and Ciarán Lenehan. Wexford’s Matthew O’Hanlon at midfield is also an accomplished hurler, while Paul Kingston is a formidable presence on the 40.
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