It wasn’t a game for the ages but UCC won’t care as they finally broke their duck against Cork Harlequins by grinding out a 2-1 Peard Cup semi-final win at Farmer’s Cross on Saturday.
Beating one of Munster’s “big two” has been a primary aim for the students since Neil Welch took over in 2009, and having drawn 3-3 with Quins last season and 2-2 last weekend, College finally managed it on Saturday.
After Adam O’Callaghan’s penalty stroke — awarded when Brian Hayes-Curtin impeded Shrew Power as he attempted to score into an empty goal — and an Andy Colton drag-flick gave UCC an early cushion, they had to batten down the hatches.
Quins had the best of a bad-tempered, scrappy encounter that saw three players yellow-carded, John Hobbs pulling one back with a slick switch flick just before half-time.
But UCC goalkeeper Brian Corcoran’s heroics — he made around a half-dozen top-quality saves — helped UCC to secure a rare appearance in the St Stephen’s Day decider.
There they’ll face Cork Church of Ireland, who failed to fire on all cylinders but still beat Bandon 4-0; Stephen Sweetnam’s brace, a Peter Daunt strike and an improvised effort from Richard Lynch — reversing home while on his knees — did the job for the holders.
The top of the table clash in the women’s league saw UCC and Cork Harlequins cancel each other out with a 1-1 stalemate at the Mardyke.
College led a messy game through Amy-Kate Trevor’s short corner bullet but were pegged back four minutes from time when Cliodhna Sargent converted from the penalty spot after a shot hit a UCC defender’s foot on the line. Bandon were the day’s big winners, Olivia Roycroft and Kate Murphy making major impacts in their first games for the club since 2009 as they routed Fermoy 6-0.
The North Cork side were without a recognised goalkeeper with Áine O’Brien making a very decent fist of her first time in the pads having only otherwise played in goal in camogie, and the presence of Roycroft in the Bandon line-up didn’t help their cause.
Currently playing semi-professionally with Royal Victory in Belgium’s second tier after four seasons with UCC, former Ireland U21 international Roycroft is back with her childhood club while the European leagues take their winter break. She bagged a hat-trick as Ger Burns’ ever-improving side hit three in each half.
Elsewhere, a makeshift Ashton side twice came from a goal down to eke out a 2-2 draw with Cork C of I. Hannah Humphreys stepped into the keeper’s pads for yet another club shorn of their regular netminders while Ashton handed first-team debuts to talented teenage twins Hillary and Siobhán O’Donovan, as well as luring Wendy Keenan out of retirement for the day. Michelle Barry and Mary-Claire Cummins both nailed reverse-stick shots to cancel out goals from Amy Roberts and Jen Barry, to earn a relieved Ashton a share of the points.
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