By Therese O’Callaghan
UL … 0-15; UCC … 1-9: UL claimed their third Ashbourne Cup title in-a-row at Mallow last night, but only after a hard-fought three-point victory over arch-rivals UCC.
This was another great tussle between these top colleges, and like the previous two finals, it was decided by a puck of the ball.
A free-flowing game ended in a welter of excitement as UCC won a free in their own half, and with the sliotar hanging in the square, it was batted to safety by goalkeeper Roisin Breen before eventually being cleared by none other than full-forward Niamh Hanniffy.
UL’s Roisin Howard celebrates with the Ashbourne Cup. Picture: INPHO / Tommy Dickson
UL manager Dinny Ryan paid tribute to his players and the way they finished the game after being a point behind at the interval.
“The tradition between UL and UCC is immense. But we had to work so hard. We started poorly. UCC had their homework done, they played a sweeper in behind Beth Carton and Niamh Hanniffy. At half-time we regrouped, we said we would play a more attacking game. It worked. The game opened up and our forwards had more space.”
The first-half was nip and tuck with UL eking out a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after 12 minutes thanks to points from Orla O’Dwyer, Beth Carton and Ereena Fryday. With UCC steadfast in defence, the sides were deadlocked with 10 minutes to go to the turnaround – Orla Cronin (2) and Maeve McCarthy.
However, UCC took command when Katrina Mackey finished to the net on 28 minutes after being put through by her inter-county teammate Amy O’Connor. UCC went to the dressing-room 1-3 to 0-5 to the good.
Carton fired the opening point of the second-half to level, only for UCC to respond with a brace from Katrina Mackey. However, they would soon be on the back foot when they conceded the next six points on the trot. Some glorious chances that were finished by Roisin Howard, Carton (3), O’Dwyer and sub Grace O’Brien (0-12 to 1-5).
Cronin converted a pair of frees to reduce the margin, making for an electric finish.
A classy point from O’Dwyer ensured a three-point game once more, but with five minutes left on the clock Cronin struck her fifth point and the Cork college were two behind.
Hanniffy landed a terrific white flag but when Cronin pointed, the deficit was two again.
Both sides were going flat out. Right on the 60-minute mark Carton eased the pressure rifling over from a place ball following a foul on O’Dwyer. UCC pressed for the equalising goal but superb defending was crucial and headed up by outstanding captain Eimear Kelly, UL held out.
UCC players show their dejection. Picture: INPHO / Tommy Dickson
UL Scorers: B Carton (0-6, 0-3 frees), O O’Dwyer (0-4), R Howard, E Fryday, G O’Brien, N Hanniffy and S Fryday (0-1 each).
UCC scorers: O Cronin (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 45m), K Mackey (1-2), M McCarthy (0-1).
UL: R Breen (Kilkenny); C Walsh (Tipperary), M Ryan (Tipperary), C Maher (Tipperary); E Kelly (Clare, Capt), C Hehir (Clare), K Kennedy (Tipperary); E Fryday (Tipperary), C Murphy (Galway); R Howard (Tipperary), B Carton (Waterford), O O’Dwyer (Tipperary); S Fryday (Tipperary), N Hanniffy (Galway), C Lyons (Limerick).
Subs: G O’Brien (Tipperary) for C Lyons (44), A Keane (Clare) for S Fryday (46), A Considine (Clare) for C Murphy (59).
UCC: L Brennan (Wexford); L O’Sullivan (Cork), M Cahalane (Cork), R Phelan (Kilkenny); A Landers (Waterford), P Mackey (Cork), L Coppinger (Cork, Co-Capt); M McCarthy (Cork), S McNamara (Limerick); A O’Connor (Cork), O Cronin (Cork, Co-Capt), C Sigerson (Cork); K Mackey (Cork), N McCarthy (Cork), H Looney (Cork).
Subs: L Callanan (Cork) for M McCarthy (46), H Ryan (Cork) for A Landers (50).
Referee: John McDonagh (Galway).