Tally keeping cool as St Mary's reach shock final
St Mary's Univ. College 2-7 UCC 2-6
A generous helping of sporting romance was served up at the Connacht Centre of Excellence yesterday when unsung St Mary's blazed into today's Sigerson Cup final - in which they will meet holders UCD - following their dramatic semi-final win over hotly-fancied UCC.
For the west Belfast seat of learning this was an extension of their journey through a competition they have graced with distinction to date.
But coach Paddy Tally, although "absolutely delighted", prefers to keep matters in context.
"We made things hard for ourselves and we had to dig out the win," declared Tally. "We conceded two early goals but then we got a goal ourselves at just the right time and this gave us the impetus to step up the battle. UCC are a good side and they were very well organised but thankfully we got over the line in the end and I have to say I am absolutely delighted.
"We face a mammoth task against UCD and while two matches in 24 hours is a big ask, we are up for the challenge."
It took the Cork side just six minutes to make an incredible start by bagging two goals in the space of 10 seconds via Ian Maguire and Cathal Bambury.
But St Mary's offered an emphatic response when Kieran McGeary potted two points from frees with Oisin O'Neill adding another. And when Antrim ace Matthew Fitzpatrick swept home the team's opening goal, they were very much back in business and led by 1-6 to 2-1 at half-time.
With O'Neill and McGeary in particular imposing themselves, St Mary's kept their shape and their nerve in a rugged, uncompromising second half.
But their spirits soared in the 51st minute when Ciaran Corrigan touched home their second goal which followed the departure of Conall McCann to a black card.
In a tense finish, it was Cory Quinn, regarded as a potential candidate for the Down squad, who swept over a majestic point that sealed victory for a St Mary's side that will now contest the final for the first time in 24 years.
"Obviously it has been quite a while since we were in the final but now that we are there we propose to give it our best shot. There is a tremendous camaraderie within the team and I think this was very much in evidence," said coach Tally.
St Mary's scorers: M Fitzpatrick 1-1, C Corrigan 1-0, O'Neill 0-3 (1f), K McGeary 0-2 (2f), C Quinn 0-1.
UCC scorers: C Bambury 1-2 (1f), J Maguire 1-0, K Spillane 0-2 (2f), B O'Driscoll 0-2.