Fresher Division 1 football league final: UU Jordanstown 1-11 NUI Galway 1-6
By Michael O Connor
Pace and movement off the ball ensured the Division 1 league title for Freshers football was brought up the M50 to Jordanstown on Tuesday evening, as NUI Galway fell short despite a competitive effort.
Should one use statistics to portray the story of a game it can sometimes be a little distorting, yet in this case they tell a concise and accurate picture. UUJ who used a sweeper well hit 14 wides as opposed to six for the western university. While both keepers were busy, it was Cian Lankford who engineered two important saves to stave off the rampaging northerners at key intervals.
NUI Galway had reached the final with a narrow win by the minimum against UCD, whilst UUJ accounted for UCC who finished the game with 13 men. Abbottstown 4G pitch housed this eagerly awaited tie between two sides who have met at Senior League Knockout stages in recent seasons. The inclement weather conditions of the recent days had little impact on the ground conditions.
NUI Galway had the opening effort for a score that fell short before UUJ registered the opening wide in the second minute. UUJ were active with a spare man in the rearguard to counteract the supposed strong NUI Galway attack. Two more UUJ wides were created with five minutes played whilst most of the early NUI Galway creativity was from their half back line but upfront the western college floundered.
Eventually the pressure on the NUI Galway rearguard earned UUJ’s Ryan Jones the opening score after seven minutes of free – flowing action, just after which NUI Galway had their first wide. UUJ struck once again when a goal looked certain, but the end result was a point punched over the bar.
At the end an opening quarter in which NUI Galway struggled to create even one meaningful scoring chance, they finally got on the scoreboard when Evan O Brien floated over a free from 35 metres. This was matched by a sweeping move downfield by UUJ and finished with Jones getting his second score. Within seconds NUI Galway’s Cathal Heneghan had a goal effort blocked in the 18th minute. This half effort was crucial in the long run as NUI Galway were finding chances hard to create and execute.
In a low scoring opening half, both sides were intent on playing attacking football but it was UUJ who were creating more chances. Jack McSharry won a free sent over by fellow county man and team captain Evan O Brien. UUJ created a scary moment for NUI Galway from a free that was cleared in the 22nd minute. The slower build up from midfield to the forwards was costing the Corribsiders time and UUJ were profiting on the break.
All this resulted in another successful free for UUJ sent over by Liam Nugent in the 24th minute. Evan O Brien worked hard to win a free he converted with four minutes left in the half as he was his side’s only scorer at this juncture. A mistake in the NUI Galway last line of defence ended with Liam Quinn hitting the net to open a four point lead that was cut to three by substitute David Kelly a minute after his introduction with two minutes left in the first half. This left the half – time score at UUJ 1–4 NUI Galway 0–4.
The second half was on only mere seconds when UUJ’s Ryan Gormley found himself on his own but elected to float the ball over the bar. Evan O Brien responded with an excellent score, before the ball was flicked to the UUJ net by Mayo’s Tommy Conroy after being set up by Lorcan Molloy. UUJ suffered the loss of number Conor Kenny as he was a major loss to their forward ranks
Cian Lankford pulled off an excellent save to deny UUJ a definite score in the 36th minute as the winners added scores to surge the Ulster college 1–8 to 1–5 clear at the end of the third quarter.
Defeat was now a real fear and it was now a case of NUI Galway requiring a salvo of points or at least a goal to come back into contention, as the game entered the final eight minutes with the four points in arrears as UUJ nabbed another score.
An insurance score was popped over the bar by UUJ in entered injury time of a game dominated in the main by UUJ. Had they executed half the chances they sent abegging the margin of victory would have twice what materialised. NUI Galway ended the game with 14 men as Evan O Brien received a second yellow card.
The score of the game fell to NUI Galway’s Robert Walzer as NUI Galway made a late surge with Cathal Heneghan hitting the UUJ goalie leg for the final attack of the day. This result for one team and making the last two for the other side should improve both sides but mean little post – Christmas when the top Dublin and Munster colleges enter the fray for the Dave Billings cup.
NUI Galway: Cian Lankford (Cork), Dylan Buckley (Galway), James Sugrue (Kerry) Julian Cooke (Cavan), Gavin Burke (Galway), Conor Campbell (Donegal), Jack McSharry (Mayo), Evan O Brien (Mayo) (0–4), Dean Brophy (Laois), Cathal Heneghan (Roscommon), Liam Burke (Mayo), Tommy Conroy (Mayo) (1–0), Ryan Cunningham (Donegal), Lorcan Molloy (Galway).
Subs used: David Kelly (Kildare) (0–1), Robert Walzer (Galway) (0–1), Padraig Costello (Galway).