Final League Matches
After a tough 4 weeks of coming out the wrong side of some of the tightest matches played all season UCC finally got the win over Ashton that was needed to kick on the latter end of the season. This could have been down to the determination to right all the wrongs of the previous week but in reality it was the presence of the returning Shane O’Halloran on the sidelines that spurred the team on to another level.
Both sides were looking threatening early on but it was undoubtedly UCC who looked more like scoring with quick counter attacks and a strong press causing problems for the Ashton defence. To Ashton’s credit they put in some brilliant goal saving tackles and interceptions in the opening 20min to keep the tie goalless. Shrew Power was his usual aggressive self and went on some powerful runs and got his reward for all the hard work from an unlikely situation. After driving around the outside of the Ashton defender he sent a cross from just inside the circle meant for another of the UCC forwards. Needless to say he scuffed the hit which caught the goalkeeper off guard to score near post to make it 1-0 to UCC.
Half time finished 1-0 with UCC looking relatively comfortable but it was obvious the game wasn’t over yet as Ashton are a team that can never be written off. 8 minutes into the second half however Eoin Finnegan, back from his “rest” that saw him miss some of our most vital matches, scored his first goal of the game. A nice bit of play from UCC allowed Eoin’s smart running see him unmarked to tap home from close range. UCC never looked back after this and should have been 3 up when a missed trap from an Ashton player saw Glenn Healy march on towards goal with Billy Mulcahy in support. Glenn showed great determination in getting the ball and a flash of brilliance to round the keeper only to see his shot go behind Billy and wide of the post when the goal was there for the taking. Luckily a short corner came not long later and Eoin Finnegan deflected home a well placed flick from Sam Grace to score his second of the evening.
At 3-0 UCC perhaps took one foot off the pedal and were quickly reminded of Ashton’s skill when the won a corner of their own after some solid build up. The resulting corner was slotted right into the top corner to make the match a contest once again. UCC rallied though and dominated possession which forced Ashton to open up their structure. This allowed Andy McGregor to make a strong run from midfield into the opposition corner and weight a cross into the Ashton circle. Eoin Finnegan reacted quickest to gain control of the ball and push Home from around 5 yards out. The match was over just a minute later and UCC had the game won 4-1. While they will inevitably be disappointed to have conceded it was a good performance with plenty of positives (mainly Finnegan’s hat-trick though).
Man of the match: Shrew Power
In what was the last league game of the season there was much to play for in Saturday’s encounter. Second placed UCC headed in to the match 5 points ahead of Limerick but the visiting team had two games in hand to leapfrog the students should the match go in their favour.
UCC started brightly and some clever interplay and one touch passing saw them have the opening shot that was just inches past the post within the first 90 seconds. Over the next half an hour UCC has the lions share of possession and territory with Limerick content to sit back and look for their chances on the break. This though left UCC exposed all too often and relied on some committed defending and Dan Moore’s heroics in goal to keep his clean sheet intact.
Sam Grace was the closest to opening the scoring when a powerful drag flick was superbly stopped on the line. This was unfortunately the highlight of the first half of what was turning out to be an increasingly fiery encounter where both teams knew exactly what was at stake.
The second half was much better from UCC who finally started to play with a composure that they are so clearly capable of. This led to an increase in chances and were far less exposed on the counter attack. A couple of short corners were well dealt with by the Limerick defence but just as it was looking like it wasn’t going to be UCC’s day, Shrew Power popped up once again to get a great deflection on a Sam flick. At 1-0 Limerick we’re forced to open up and were undoubtedly a threat when the broke quickly. With less than 5 minutes to go in the match Limerick pulled their goalkeeper in favour of an extra outfielder. UCC had to dig deep and did enough to seal the win with some resolute defending.
The final whistle was met with sighs of relief more than cheers of joy and it confirms that UCC will have the opportunity to go to the IHL playoffs in April, a wonderful opportunity to challenge some of the best teams from around the country.
Man of the match: Dan Moore