Sigerson Preview: DCU and UCD set to rekindle rivalry

All-Dublin affair a repeat of 2014 quarter final as hosts UCC take on IT Carlow


University College Dublin (UCD) v Dublin City University(DCU)

This all Dublin-affair may prove the highlight of this year’s Sigerson Cup competition; northside versus southside and very little love lost between two very different footballing nurseries.

UCD, 32-time Sigerson Cup champions, are remarkably in pursuit of a first title since 1996 this weekend. Opponents DCU, who by contrast only won their first title in 2005, are now seeking a fourth success in past 10 years.

It’s already been a positive week for UCD in winning the freshers’ All-Ireland, a competition DCU have largely dominated in recent years. The current senior panel is backboned by fresher All-Ireland league winners from 2010 and 2013. That crew is headed by Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey, who plays at centre forward, and Westmeath’s John Heslin, a 2010 winner.

Heslin is the team’s top scorer, averaging seven points per game so far in 2015 (O’Byrne Cup and Sigerson Cup), the highest scoring average of any player in the four remaining teams. He lined out at midfield in the quarter-final win over GMIT, with Kildare’s Tommy Moolick sidelined through injury and Wexford’s Matthew O’Hanlon also unavailable.

O’Hanlon has been named to start for the Wexford senior hurlers, whom he captains, this Sunday, although UCD say he will travel to Cork. If he is selected Heslin is likely to move into the full-forward line.

DCU may be renowned for their star-studded teams over the years, but while this group contains the likes of Laois’s Colm Begley and Galway’s Tom Flynn, there is a greater emphasis on balance and hard work.

In their five games so far in 2015, they have had 23 different scorers, with their substitutes mustering 4-12 between them. That’s six points more than the bemches of the other three semi-finalists combined, as the likes of Donie Smith and Conor McGraynor add an extra dimension when introduced.

The teams are reasonably well matched. DCU are slightly more rounded, with good strength in depth, although the dynamism and speed of a UCD team built around McCaffrey and Kildare’s Niall Kelly could be the difference in a tight encounter. Neither team is as ruthless in defence as in attack and a high-scoring encounter may be on the cards.

One to watch: Roscommon half-forward Enda Smith and Dublin defender Jack Smith have been the stand-out performers for DCU so far, although they will also rely on 28-year-old Colm Begley’s experience this weekend.

For UCD, David Byrne at full back will be expected to lead a relatively young defence, and after his excellent display for the Dublin seniors against Donegal in the Allianz league, no doubt Jim Gavin will be keeping an eye out.

Verdict: DCU

Throw in: Friday, 2pm; Mardyke, UCC

Referee: Rory Hickey

University College Cork (UCC) v IT Carlow

UCC have been the perennial over-achievers in this competition over the past five years.They’ve reached four finals, winning two, and have been pretty vocal in explaining that the team ethic – not scholarships or poaching – is behind that success. Much of their revival certainly stems from the input of one Billy Morgan.

He will have UCC once more going into this weekend confident that they can go on and beat any of the other remaining teams. They will have 11 players who played in last year’s final victory over UUJ as they aim to be the first side to retain the Sigerson Cup since Sligo IT in 2005.

As hosts, they will have a further advantage as their vocal support is sure to edge them on particularly if they can can reach a final which will be played less than 24 hours after the semi.

Kerry’s Conor Cox and Paul Geaney in the full forward line will offer a considerable threat while Cork seniors Conor Dorman, Brian O’Driscoll and Tomás Clancy will lead the college’s traditional running game from the half-back line.

Ian Maguire, another Cork man, impressed for the Rebels during last year’s Munster under-21 success and later enjoyed a run of games for the senior side during the league. He too is a key player.

Maguire will have it all to do against IT Carlow on Friday, though, particularly if Brendan Murphy is available to play. The former Sydney Swans AFL midfielder sustained a fracture to his foot prior to the Sigerson opening round and he remains a major doubt for inclusion this weekend. He received his scan results on Thursday, although IT Carlow insist he will not be risked unless he is deemed fully fit.

Outside of Murphy, IT Carlow are a reasonably young team. Barry McHugh is an impressive young talent from Galway and has managed 2-19 thus far this year. Meath’s Anthony Forde has impressed too.

IT Carlow go in as major underdogs, although they have already beaten Munster opposition in both their Sigerson games to date – Tralee IT and UL. Both games were away fixtures and they will have gained some experience of playing against the short handpassing game customary to the Munster universities.

One to watch: The UCC half-back line is the fulcrum of their gameplan but Paul Geaney is the obvious standout player in this encounter. He missed their quarter-final win but the All-Ireland winner did manage 1-5 from play in Kerry’s last Allianz league outing against Derry so he comes in to this encounter in form.

Verdict: UCC

Throw in: Friday at 4pm; Mardyke, UCC

Referee: Derek O Mahoney

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