Ryan Cup Division 1 third level Football league final
University of Galway………….0-15
One of the coldest nights of the season greeted football followers to the GAA centre in Abbottstown as old rivals University of Galway (UG) and Ulster University (UU) met once in the Ryan Cup final with UG emerging successful to bridge a 44-year gap since the 1979 success that was followed up the 1980 Sigerson/Fitzgibbon double for the college.
In recent seasons they met at the same stage and on that occasion the Ulster kingpins were in the winner’s enclosure.
As is the norm unlike years pervious both colleges were missing key players who will be featuring for their counties in the 2024 league and championship. However, those from both colleges who had worked hard to get their sides to this stage had the ideal opportunity to stake a place for Sigerson cup action in mid-January.
In the semi-finals University of Galway had too much for St Mary’s Belfast whilst Ulster University edged past UL by the minimum to set up this eagerly awaited decider.
Wides were not in plentiful supply in Abbottstown as controlled play and indeed good accuracy once both sides got into the groove did ensure that a low scoring first half did evolve into a positive second half albeit dominated in the main by the Western College.
Clare man Mark McInerney opened the scoring after seven minutes that saw UU kick two wides as opposed to one for UG.
Most of the play in the opening half was centred around the two 45s as both sides were testing each other out as UU were playing a solid defensive game that at times frustrated UG before the hard working Danny Fullerton equalised for UU after 11 minutes with Rory Canavan was a thorn in the UG defence but did not score early on.
Ryan O’ Donoghue who was the powerhouse for UG after 17 minutes gave his side the lead. Three minutes later and Canavan levelled the final before James McLaughlin who played an influential role in the second half replaced Diarmuid Kilcommins who was carrying a leg injury into the game.
With the rain falling and such a pristine surface in Abbottstown players at full speed were losing their grip and unforced errors were in vogue. It would be fair to acknowledge that UG were as defensive as UU when the need arose and indeed they broke down a number of strong UU attacks.
Danny Fullerton added two scores for UU before Cian Monaghan had the final score of the first half as UU held a (0-4) to (0-3) half time lead.
There was little evidence bar the reality that the UG defence had a grip on the UU attack that the second half story would be so one sided.
Two minutes into the second half Ryan Monaghan levelled the game as Conor Corcoran replaced Conor Dunleavy and was very much to the fore for the second half.
Evan Lyons and Canice Mulligan were also powerhouses for UG in the central defensive positions as they began to seize control of midfield.
Ryan O Donoghue sent UG clear before James McLaughlin with a booming effort before Tommy Conroy made in three in a row and now UG from being one in arrears were three ahead.
Danny Fullerton pulled one back for UU and it was now time for Ryan O’ Donoghue to step up and he kicked two in three minutes to leave UG (0-9) to (0-5) ahead by the end of the third quarter.
A superb score from UU centre back Ryan McGill gave home to Paul Rouse’s men as they did exert five minutes of pressure on UG but another monster effort that went high into the sky and over the bar. This score seemed to be the score that finally broke UU resistance despite a response from UU after 48 minutes.
Danny Fullerton narrowed the gap to two points but it was all University of Galway as the hardworking Liam O’ Conghaile who has shown up well all season for UG and McLaughlin once more were on target to leave UG (0-12) to (0-8) clear entering the final eight minutes.
Cian Monaghan and Rory Canavan with UU’s last score traded points as four points was too much of a deficit for UU to haul in.
The final two scores of the game went to UG substitutes Dan O’ Flaherty and Cillian O Curraoin to seal a deserved six-point win.
Best for the winners included Conor Corcoran, James McLaughlin, Canice Mulligan, Rory Egan, Paul Kelly, Liam O’ Conghaile, Ryan O’ Donoghue if just for the superb point with his back to goal and the Monaghan brothers.
UU have players such as Conor Glass, Ethan Doherty and Darragh Canavan to bring back to the panel so it will be a far stronger side that they will bring to championship fare.
Following the game chairperson of third level GAA Michael Hyland, a native of Salthill presented the Ryan Cup to University of Galway captain Cathal Sweeney.
University of Galway scorers: Ryan O’ Donoghue (0-4), James McLaughlin (0-3), Cian Monaghan (0-2), Liam O’ Conghaile, Ryan Monaghan, Tommy Conroy, Dan O’ Flaherty, Cillian O’ Curraoin, Mark McInerney (0-1) each
Liam Brady, Ramor United, Cavan, Conor Dunleavy, Balla, Mayo, Evan Lyons, Shamrock Gaels, Sligo, Colin Murray, Mountebellew/Moylough, Galway, Rory Egan, Edenderry, Offaly, Canice Mulligan, St. Patrick’s, Sligo, Cian Monaghan Oughterard, Galway, Diarmuid Kilcommons Annaghdown, Galway, Paul Kelly Moycullen, Galway, Liam Ó Conghaile An Spidéal, Galway, Tommy Conroy The Neale, Mayo, Ryan Monaghan Oughterard, Galway, Mark McInerney Eire Óg, Inis, Clare, Ryan O Donoghue, Belmullet, Mayo, Cathal Sweeney, Salthill Knocknacarra, Galway (Capt). Subs: Cillian O Curráoin, Michéal Bhreatnach, Galway for McInerney, Conor Corcoran, Moycullen, Galway for Dunleavy, Dan Flaherty, Salthill Knocknacarra, Galway for R Monaghan.
Ulster University scorers: Danny Fullerton (0-6), Rory Canavan (0-2), Ryan McGill (0-1).
Ulster University: Ronan McGeehan, Darragh Curran, Ronan Boyle, Seamus Kelly, Finian O’ Brien, Ryan McGill, Peadar MacCartan, Bertie McCarron, John Cunningham, John Ellis, Cathal Diamond, Oisin McCann, Conor Cush, Rory Canavan, Danny Fullerton.
Referee: David Gough (Meath)