Ciarán Ó Braonáin was in Tolka Part to watch UCD defeat DIT in the Colleges and Universities Football League Final, courtesy of a breathtaking goal in added time
UCD travelled to Tolka Park as strong favourites for the Colleges and Universities Football League title on the back of an impressive campaign which saw them net an astounding 31 goals in just six games, while conceding only twice.
On top of this formidable record, the University side has dominated the tournament since its inception, winning two of the past three finals. DIT, on the other hand, were making their debut in the competition’s final but could take great heart from the group-stage draw between the two sides – not to mention their own superb record of 17 goals scored, and just two conceded.
The first half was a great advertisement for the competition with both teams determined to play attractive passing football. The first effort of note came on 15 minutes when DIT conceded a free kick on the edge of their area. Unfortunately for UCD, David McMillan’s sweet strike deflected out off the left post, with Craig Hyland in the net appearing beaten. Moments later DIT were also denied by the woodwork: Eoin Kavanagh’s corner led to a scramble in the area, climaxing with the ball cannoning off the crossbar to relief of the UCD defence.
As the match progressed the University side began to dominate in possession, with DIT defending doggedly and looking dangerous on the counter. The game’s opener, however, came as UCD hit on the break. After DIT had squandered possession from a throw in a promising area, a swift cross-field pass found UCD’s Peter McMahon who raced forward, leaving his man for dead, and slotted the ball under the onrushing Hyland.
UCD immediately looked to build on their lead and although their fantastic flowing football looked, on occasion, set to overwhelm DIT, the Belfield side failed to find any meaningful penetration as their opponents gave them little space in the final third.
The failure to make their possession count was punished on the half hour mark as DIT levelled the game. Craig McDonnell capitalised on a skewed clearance, taking the ball on his chest before rifling a dipping volley into the net from the edge of the area. McDonnell’s thunderous strike gave a renewed vigour to his side and the closing stages of the half saw some exciting end-to-end football.
The second half saw UCD regain their dominance in possession, although both sides seemed to suffer from fatigue with the high tempo and heavy pitch clearly taking its toll. In a half just shaded by the University side, it seemed as if tired legs had settled for extra time – and on 92, when Robbie Creevy received the ball in a seemingly innocuous possession, few onlookers would have expected anything else.
As his manager stressed afterwards, “it was going to take a moment of magic” to separate the finalists, and that is exactly what the man-of-the-match delivered when he curled a truly beautiful 25-yard effort over the helpless Hyland into the top right corner of the net.
It was a heartbreaking moment for the DIT players, who had no doubt felt their committed performance had earned them an extra half-hour. However, Creevy’s was – without question – a goal fit to win any final.
UCD: G Barron, G Mathews, D O’Connor, M Kelly (J Timmons), M Leahy, P Corry, P McMahon, R Creevy, G Falconer (S Doyle, S Belhout), D McMillan, S Houston.
Subs not used: D Lehane, D Fallon, B McCabe, M McGinley
DIT: C Hyland, D Zambra, N Flynn, C McMahon, C McDonnell, S Fitzgerald, R O’Farrell, M O’Connor, D O’Sullivan (C Costello), E Kavanagh (T Adigun), S Roche (D Soon).
Subs not used: C Cochrane, A McGrane, M Calahin, R Church