UCC crowned Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup champions
Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup Final
UCC: 0-16 ST MARY'S: 1-9
By Aonghus Ó Maicín at O'Moore Park
After five years of waiting, UCC lifted college football's most prestigious prize against a side renowned for taking delight in upsetting those with storied reputations.
The eventual champions had blown some of their opponents out of the water en route to the final, but, St Mary's, the champions from two years ago, presented a huge challenge despite their relatively small size as an institution.
UCC's tactics, against a defensive side, were obvious from the outset - run at speed at the Ulster outfit's defence and force them into fouling. With a free-taker of Sean O'Shea's calibre in their ranks, it was a wise move from Billy Morgan which paid off. The Kerry sharpshooter slotted over four placed balls from challenging positions, and five in total, during the opening 30 minutes.
But it was St Mary's who showed the endeavour to score first on the night, registering the game's opening two scores through Stephen McConville and Shane McGuigan. The Leesiders soon took back control of the contest with some fine scores, in particular from Padraig Clifford and Graham O'Sullivan, over a well-organised St Mary's blanket defence.
And, yet, just as the Munster men were ripping off the shackles, St Mary's scored a goal when UCC goalkeeper Mark White came to claim an under-cooked Ryan Coleman shot but the ball was knocked from his grasp and into the back of the net by the onrushing Shane McGuigan.
O'Shea's ever-accurate boot came to the fore once again as UCC wrestled their way back into the lead and, allied with another phenomenal O'Sullivan score after he briefly set aside his defensive duties, the 2014 champions earned a deserved three-point lead, 0-9 to 1-3, at the break.
The second half began tentatively. O'Shea and Cian Kiely on target for the Munster men and Miceal Rooney and McGuigan doing likewise for The Ranch.
The maroon-clad students, now playing with a revived sense of enthusiasm, began to hit a purple patch that was interrupted when reduced to 14 men by Aaron Boyle's dismissal entering the fourth quarter.
The numerical difference would ultimately prove vital. Once UCC got to grips with where the additional man and space was they rattled off a ream of successive scores and the momentum swung strongly in their favour despite two impressive efforts from McGuigan who was St Mary's best performer on the night.
As the Belfast students pushed for a late goal, UCC remained composed and ensured Kiely, their captain, got his opportunity to take the microphone for a victory speech.
Scorers for UCC: Sean O'Shea 0-7 (0-5f), Padraig Clifford and Graham O'Sullivan 0-2 each, Padraig Lucey, Cian Kiely, Garry Murphy, Conal O'Hainifin and James Naughton 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Mary's: Shane McGuigan 1-4 (0-3f), Stephen McConville 0-3 (0-3f), Miceal Rooney and Ryan McCusker 0-1 each.
UCC: Mark White (Cork); Michael Flood (Meath), Kevin Flahive (Cork), Graham O’Sullivan (Kerry); Daniel O'Brien (Kerry), Brian Ó Beaglaíoch (Kerry), Cian Kiely (Cork); Padraig Lucey (Kerry), Jack Kennedy (Tipperary); Padraig Clifford (Kerry), Sean O’Shea (Kerry), Conor Horgan (Cork); Conor Geaney (Kerry), Killian Spillane (Kerry), Eimhin Courtney (Clare).
Subs: David Shaw for Hoban (h/t), James Naughton for Courtney (53), Eoin Finnerty for Spillane (53), Garry Murphy for Geaney (53), Conal O'Hanifin for O'Brien (60).
ST MARY'S: Mark Reid (Down); Miceal Rooney (Down), Caolan Dillon (Armagh), Liam Rafferty (Tyrone); Colm Byrne (Tyrone), Ryan McCusker (Tyrone), Aaron Duffy (Armagh); Jarlath Óg Burns (Armagh), Liam Devlin (Down); Stephen McConville (Down), Ryan Coleman (Tyrone), Aaron Boyle (Armagh); Shane McGuigan (Derry), Cathair McKinney (Armagh), Niall Toner (Derry).
Subs: Daniel McKinless for Byrne (53).
REFEREE: David Gough (Meath)