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Rafferty points way as St Mary's dig deep to cause another major upset

St Mary's College 1-11 NUI Galway 1-11

Winning ways: Liam Rafferty's shoot-out point was decisive
Winning ways: Liam Rafferty's shoot-out point was decisive
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When St Mary's University College defied the odds to claim the Sigerson Cup for only the second time in 2017, it was regarded as a seismic shock.

Yesterday, though, the west Belfast seat of learning once again dug deep into their box of tricks to tame red-hot favourites NUI in yet another major upset.

They may have done it the hard way, having endured a fraught period of extra-time before holding their nerve in a free-kick shoot-out, but Gavin McGilly's charges breasted the tape amid ecstatic celebrations.

"We knew it was going to be tough because the NUI side was laden with talent but the boys never wilted," beamed McGilly, who guided Moy to the All-Ireland intermediate club championship title last year.

"They showed tremendous character and courage and they really did St Mary's proud."

It was Liam Rafferty who emerged as the hero of the hour, nailing the final point in a tense shoot-out that was to seal his team's epic victory.

The sides had finished level at 1-11 each after extra-time with NUI having looked the more impressive outfit yet failing to conquer the resistance offered by a sturdy St Mary's defence.

The Belfast side may have flirted with danger on occasions in the first-half but when Aaron Boyle steered home a 26th minute goal from a penalty to give them the lead it looked as if they might seize the initiative. However, Nathan Mullen's well-taken goal complemented Rab Finnerty's earlier brace of points in cementing NUI's 1-4 to 1-2 interval lead.

When Finnerty was on target again just after the break, NUI began to look much more comfortable but yet again St Mary's robust spirit surfaced.

In landing four of the last five scores of the match with Stephen McConville, Shane McGuigan and Rafferty leading the way, they gained in confidence.

It was McConville who sent the game into a free-kick shoot-out with his late equalising score and Rafferty who came up trumps in a thrilling climax to win the day.

St Mary's College: M Reid; C McKinney, R McCusker, M Rooney 0-1; C Byrne, A Boyle 1-0 (pen.) L Rafferty 0-3; J Og Burns 0-1, L Devlin; R McSherry, S McGuigan 0-2 (1f), S McConville 0-3 (3f); N Toner, R Coleman, A Duffy. Subs: D McKinless 0-1 for Devlin (40), J Hannigan for Duffy (52), T O'Kane for Byrne (52), L Devlin for O'Kane (60), C McAllister for Rooney (70), T O'Kane for Hannigan (75).

NUI: A Brady; S Brennan, S Mulkerrin, K McDonnell; K McDonnell 0-2, K Molloy, R Greene; P O'Donnell, P Cooke, C Darcy; N Mullen 1-0, M Daly 0-1, E Tierney 0-2 (1f); R Finnerty 0-3 (3f), J Robinson 0-2 (1f), O Gallagher 0-1. Subs: B Donovan for Gallagher (40), G Canavan for Finnerty (60), J Maher for Brennan (70), K Quinn for Robinson (78), E McGrath for Daly (79).

Referee: Brendan Healy (Roscommon).

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