McGrath finds range as free-takers play leading roles at finish
UCD's Noel McGrath celebrates one of his six points in the last 10 minutes to seal victory over UL yesterday. Photograph: Inpho
UCD 1-16 UL 0-17:UCD booked their place in the semi-final thanks to a two-point win over UL in Belfield yesterday. These teams last clashed in the 2011 quarter-final with UL triumphing by 0-15 to 0-12, but it was the Dublin side who got the upperhand yesterday.
Nicky English’s side trailed by three at the break, but with the aid of a strong wind in the second half, prevailed in a fiercely-contested battle.
UL took an early lead, scoring three points without reply in the first five minutes, before Tipperary’s Noel McGrath got UCD’s first score with a pointed free. UL continued to get the upperhand as they raced into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead, with points from Michael Fennelly, Jonathan Glynn and Adrian Ryan. In difficult conditions, both sides’ free-takers were in fine form, with UCD captain McGrath and UL’s Kieran Morris exchanging points in quick succession, before McGrath reduced the deficit further with two more pointed frees.
The game burst into life after 15 minutes, when the home side’s Jack Guiney found himself one-on-one with Niall McGrath in the UL goal, and he calmly dispatched a low drive into the bottom corner of the net, to draw the sides level.
UCD took the lead for the first time shortly afterwards, when Patrick Murphy finished off a flowing move with a point.
UL responded well and continued to heap pressure on the UCD defence, marshalled by the excellent Rory O’Carroll. The champions of two years ago regained the lead with three more pointed frees from Morris, before UCD goal-scorer Guiney and UL’s Paul Kelly traded further points. On the stroke of half-time, Morris struck another free – his seventh of the half, to send Liam Garvey’s side in leading by three points.
With the wind at their backs, UCD began to get a foothold. After falling four points behind to scores from Kelly, they got back to within one point after points from Cathal Kenny, and a further two from the outstanding McGrath.
The game got sloppy as the conditions began to take their toll, with both sides guilty of conceding soft frees. It came down to a battle between the two free-takers; Morris gave UL the lead again with three more points, but it was McGrath who booked his side’s place in the semi-final with six points in the final 10 minutes.
It has been six years since UCD last reached the final and now only a clash with UCC stands in their way of reaching the final again.
UCD: B Murphy; J Gannon, R OCarroll, S Norton; J Douglas, C Ailis, W Phelan; O Gough, N McGrath 0-12 (0-11 frees); JK Guiney (1-1), P Murphy (0-1), G Sinnott (0-1); D Fox, C Kenny (0-1), B OCarroll. Subs: M Brennan (for Fox), J Mulligan (for Ailis)
UL: N McGrath; M Carmody, P Stapleton, P Ryan; G Brennan, C Ryan, J Gallagher; M Fennelly (0-1), S Golden; T Heffernan, A Ryan (0-1), P Walsh; K Morris (0-10, seven frees, two 65s), B Stapleton (0-2), J Glynn (0-1). Subs: P Kelly (0-2) (for Stapleton), D Honan (for Glynn), J Fitzgibbon (for Heffernan). Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)