Westmeath native John Heslin was in flying form as UCD’s senior footballers breezed past A.I.T. on a crisp Tuesday afternoon last in Belfield to book a Sigerson Cup quarter-final meeting with G.M.I.T.
Last year, the sides met in Athlone and Heslin’s performance was a carbon copy of that clash. His pinpoint accuracy from frees and play contributed to wins for U.C.D. on both occasions. Indeed, Heslin, also managed to drift back in order to bolster his side’s defence when they needed his presence. Seven of last year’s first-15 held a grip on their starting-number for this week and their experience was telling. U.C.D.’s strategy was geared towards filtering back around defence when necessary and subsequently hauling points with ease. At some stages near the end of the game, twelve men covered any crevasses in the UCD half. But when well-conditioned A.I.T. players, such as Stephen Flynn, Kieran Martin and Colm O’Brien, burst forward in pursuit of a score, they were soon precluded by the sturdy U.C.D. full-back line of Ryan Wylie, Davey Byrne and Martin O’Cathaláin. While it transpired that points would be the only currency for Tuesday’s game, this was largely due to the flexibility of both goalkeepers – Eoghan Keogh (U.C.D.) and Mark Langtry (A.I.T.) – respectively as Jack Barry was foiled when he met Langtry while Keogh pulled off a cracking save from Ger Egan’s shot in the final quarter. U.C.D.’s win makes amends for their disappointing exit from the O’Byrne Cup when a depleted squad saw them suffer a 17-point loss to Kildare on the back of tremendous victories over Carlow and Louth.
Right from the get-go, U.C.D. looked like they were enjoying domination of the game and didn’t have to break a sweat in doing so. They tagged on five-points during the opening quarter and also managed to starve their opponents of any scoring opportunity. While Ger Egan finally struck back with a pointed free, he could do little to tear asunder U.C.D.’s game-plan and so U.C.D. sustained a lead of 0-8 to 0-1 at the interval.
Upon the change-of-ends, U.C.D. never faltered as Jack McCaffrey reopened with a pair of his characteristical attacks While Ger Egan and Michael Day landed stylish scores for the visitors, U.C.D.’s John Heslin, McCaffrey and Brian Fenton all lodged scores to maintain a 0-14 to 0-5 gap with almost ten minutes remaining. Boosted by a pair of points, A.I.T. almost made it a contest when they landed two points and gave the kiss of-life to faint hopes of a revival with five minutes ticking down. Hwoever, they subsequently hit three wayward shots as John Heslin rounded off his tally of 0-8 and banked a straight-forward victory for U.C.D. who have now progressed to the competition’s quarter-final stages.
U.C.D. – John Heslin (0-8, 4 frees), Ryan Basquel, Jack McCaffrey (0-2 each), Seán O’Dea, Paraic Harnan, Brian Fenton (0-1 each).
A.I.T. – Ger Egan (0-4, 3 frees), Dan Queeney, Kieran Martin, Michael Day (0-1 each).
U.C.D. – Eoghan Keogh, Ryan Wylie, Davey Byrne, Martin O’Cathaláin, Paraic Harnan, Conor Mullally, Seán O’Dea, Matthew O’Hanlon, Jack Barry, Brian Fenton, Niall Kelly, Jack McCaffrey (capt.), Ryan Basquel, John Heslin, Eoghan Nolan. Subs: Robert Carr for Jack Barry; Ciarán Lenehan for Eoghan Nolan; Conor Sheridan for Brian Fenton; Patrick Reilly for Niall Kelly; Eoin Lowery for Ryan Basquel.
A.I.T. – Mark Langtry, Eoin Kerins, Stephen Flynn, Darren Farley, James Dolan, Kieran Martin, Jack Donoghue, Michael Day, Colm O’Brien, Alan Coffey, Ger Egan (capt.), David Whelan, Cillian Fitzgerald, Dan Queeney, Kieran Kilcline. Subs: Dan Wharton for David Whelan; Anton Sullivan for Colm O’Brien; Jack Wharton for Cillian Fitzgerald.
Referee – John Hickey (Carlow).