UCD 1-11, Queen’s University 1-04 – UCD progressed to the semi-finals of the Fresher’s Cup last Wednesday, reports Patrick Guiney
UCD’s first year footballers overcame a determined challenge from Queen’s University Belfast on a blustery Wednesday afternoon last week, in the quarter final of the Fresher’s Cup. On home ground, however, the UCD side had a very difficult time subduing this physical Queen’s outfit.
With the elements against them and playing into the wind in the first half, UCD managed to outplay their opponents in the opening quarter, deservedly striking first in the eighth minute through the boot of Kingston, who slotted over from the edge of the twenty metre line. This gave the home side momentum as they quickly put Queen’s on the back foot. A well-taken, long range effort by midfielder John Helsin soared over the bar and exemplified their superiority.
UCD were playing free-flowing football and along with the vocal encouragement from coach Billy Sheehan, made the match very entertaining to watch for the crowd who had braved the weather to cheer the team on.
UCD early on quashed any worries of being physically outmatched by Queen’s, as on many occasions in the game they tackled aggressively but fairly. Carl Diaz and Conor Carty won their aerial battles early on, performing excellently in the half-back line and looking a formidable duo in the primitive stages of the game.
Four more points were added to the scoreboard by an array of players including corner forward Niall Kilroy and midfielder David Larkin, the latter navigating a tricky free kick over the bar after another defensive mistake from Queen’s.
As the first quarter ended Queen’s finally moved up a gear and registered their first point of the match. This began a closely fought affair, as the visitors rattled over three more points in quick succession. The atmosphere and tenacity spilled over to the crowd as a passionate UCD supporter exchanged words with the linesman over a poor decision.
All of sudden for the first time in this match, the home side began to drop their heads and let their rivals take a costly lead. The hosts’ defence, spearheaded by captain Ciarán Lenehan, had been near perfect for the first half, but a rare mistake by Alan Carr led to Queen’s netting the first goal of the game. Queen’s had narrowed the gap to two points and by half time Sheehan had some stern words for his players.
Unfortunately the beginning of the second half did not go according to plan for Sheehan’s team, who quickly found themselves with ground to cover. After a period of confusion in the UCD defence, and a lack of communication between the midfield pair, the team had their backs to the wall. Thankfully for the hosts, a Queen’s penalty drew a brilliant save from goalkeeper Richard Farrell who was giving an outstanding performance between the posts.
The drive of the team to win at this stage was evident throughout with Sheehan firing orders from the sidelines. Some newfound skill and aggression from UCD paid off, rewarded with a well-deserved goal neatly slotted home by Heslin after some questionable defending from a free kick by Eanna Tiernan.
As both teams began to yearn for the final whistle to provide refuge from the inclement weather, Sheehan freshened his side, introducing five substitutes in the last fifteen minutes. The decision paid dividends, as all five made a big impact on the game and ensured UCD stayed on course for victory. The hosts slowly took the game beyond Queen’s with a string of unanswered points from their late introductions, and the final whistle was met with a chorus of celebration from the players.
Sheehan, a former Laois senior player, will have been impressed with his team’s performance so far in this lively knockout competition, having seen his side previously defeat two very strong outfits in DIT and DCU.
Captain Ciarán Lenehan commented afterward that “overall the game was good… but the penalty saved by Farrell pushed the team on.” This game was a very positive sign of things to come for Sheehan’s men, who are looking more like champions with every passing game.
UCD: Richard Farrell; Alan Carr, Ciarán Lenehan (captain), Michael Furlong; Stuart Nerney, Carl Diaz, Conor Carty; John Heslin, Michael O’Regan; David Larkin, Peter O’Hara, Eanna Tiernan; Niall Kilroy, Donal Kingston, Lorcan Smith