Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup Final: NUIG triumph over UL
Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup final
NUIG 0-12 UL 1-6
By Paul Keane at IT Carlow campus, Carlow
Not even the genius of David Clifford could prevent NUI Galway from collecting a first Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup title since 2003, with Roscommon's Cathal Heneghan the hero for the westerners.
Heneghan was hauled from the bench at half-time with the scores level in dreadful conditions at the IT Carlow GAA grounds and reeled off three crucial points within minutes to claim the Man of the Match award.
More importantly, his stunning cameo in driving rain and high winds helped clinched a 23rd Sigerson title for NUI Galway who agonisingly lost out in the 2018 decider.
There could even be a dream third level double for NUI Galway as their Fitzgibbon Cup team are through to the final.
It was six points in a row in the third quarter, three of those from Roscommon senior Heneghan, which put Maurice Sheridan's side in a winning position though Clifford typically did his best to spoil the party.
The All-Star forward converted a 45th minute penalty and helped get his team to within a point of NUI Galway though that was as good as it got for UL whose bid for a maiden title came up short.
NUI Galway, slight underdogs, played with the wind initially and wondered if they'd kick themselves for not making more of that initial advantage.
Opponents UL were boosted by the availability of Eoghan McLaughlin who was a late addition to the half-back line having initially been ruled out with ankle trouble.
UL were still without Kerry's Stefan Okunbor though NUI Galway had their own injury issues with Mayo star Tommy Conroy and Galway's Sean Mulkerrin both absent due to knee problems.
NUI Galway did surge three points clear early on thanks to scores from Fionn McDonagh, Paul Kelly and Gavin Burke but didn't score again until early in the second as UL reeled them in to leave it 0-3 apiece at half-time.
Amid driving raing and high winds, two Clifford points from frees helped haul UL back after that slow start.
Heneghan's introduction was vital though and he reeled off the first two points of the second-half before Matthew Tierney clipped over a free.
Heneghan then drew gasps from the 1,300 crowd with a clever dummy solo before splitting the posts for the third time.
NUI Galway struck six unanswered points in total and while UL battled back bravely with Clifford converting the penalty and McLaughlin among the point scorers, their brave bid for a first ever title ultimately came to nought.
NUI Galway finished strongly with late points from the excellent Burke, Mayo forward McDonagh, and joint top scorer Tomo Culhane.
NUI Galway scorers: Cathal Heneghan 0-3, Tomo Culhane 0-3 (0-2f), Fionn McDonagh 0-2, Gavin Burke 0-2, Paul Kelly 0-1, Matthew Tierney 0-1 (0-1f).
UL scorers: David Clifford 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), Paul Towey 0-1, Eoghan McLauglin 0-1, Donal O'Sullivan 0-1, Paul Walsh 0-1.
NUI Galway: Conor Carroll; Eoghan Kelly, Neil Mulcahy, Colin Murray; Rory Egan, Sean Kelly, Gavin Durcan; Paul Kelly, Matthew Tierney; Fionn McDonagh, Nathan Mullen, Cathal Donoghue; Gavin Burke, Cathal Sweeney, Tomo Culhane.
Subs: Cathal Heneghan for Donoghue h/t, Tony Gill for Durcan 42, Ryan Monaghan for Mullen 64.
UL: Conor Flaherty; Ciaran Donnelly, Jack Coyne, Paul Maher; Gearoid O'Donovan, Sean Powter, Eoghan McLaughlin; Connell Dempsey, Daniel Walsh; Ciaran Downes, Emmet McMahon, Dan Gray; Paul Towey, David Clifford, Donal O'Sullivan.
Subs: Jack Glynn for Powter h/t, Paul Walsh for Dempsey 42, Oisin Looney for Downes 55, James McCarthy for Gray 58.
Referee: David Gough (Meath).