30 November 2023

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University of Galway win Senior Football League title for first time in 44 years

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University of Galway win Senior Football League title for first time in 44 years

Ryan Cup Division 1 third-level Football League final

University of Galway 0-15 Ulster University 0-9

One of the coldest nights of the season greeted football followers to the GAA Centre in Abbottstown as old rivals UG and UU met once in the Ryan Cup final with UG emerging successful in bridging 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 previous 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 for the Galway lads after seven minutes before the hard-working Danny Fullerton equalised for UU after 11 minutes. Ryan O’Donoghue edged UG in front after 17 minutes, only for Rory Canavan to level moments later. Maigh Cuilinn midfielder James McLaughlin, who played an influential role in the second half, then replaced the injured Diarmuid Kilcommins and a defense-dominated opening half ended with Danny Fullerton adding two scores for UU before Cian Monaghan had the final score of the first half, leaving Ulster University ahead at half-time 0-4 to 0-3.

Two minutes into the second half Ryan Monaghan levelled the game and with Evan Lyons and Canice Mulligan dominating in the central defensive positions, UG began to take control. Ryan O’Donoghue, James McLaughlin and Tommy Conroy all landed superb points to put UG three ahead and even though Danny Fullerton pulled one back for UU, Ryan O’Donoghue kicked two more in the space of three minutes to leave UG 0-9 to 0-5 ahead by the end of the third quarter. A superb score from UU center-back Ryan McGill gave hope to Paul Rouse’s men and Danny Fullerton did narrow the gap to two points soon after, but it was all University of Galway in the closing stages as the hardworking Liam O’Conghaile 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 traded points and the final two scores of the game went to UG substitutes Daniel 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, and the Monaghan brothers. Ulster University 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

University of Galway: 1. Liam Brady, (Ramor United, Cavan), 2. Conor Dunleavy, (Balla, Mayo), 3. Evan Lyons, (Shamrock Gaels, Sligo), 4. Colin Murray, (Mountebellew/Moylough), 5. Rory Egan, (Edenderry, Offaly), 6. Canice Mulligan, (St. Patrick’s, Sligo), 7. Cian Monaghan (Oughterard), 8. Diarmuid Kilcommons (Annaghdown), 9. Paul Kelly (Maigh Muilinn), 10. Liam Ó Conghaile (An Spidéal), 11. Tommy Conroy (The Neale, Mayo), 12. Ryan Monaghan (Oughterard), 13. Mark McInerney (Eire Óg Ennis, Clare), 14. Ryan O Donoghue, (Belmullet, Mayo), 15. Cathal Sweeney, (Salthill Knocknacarra, Galway Capt). Subs: James McLoughlin (Maigh Cuilinn) for Kilcommins, Cillian O Curráoin (Michéal Breathnach) for McInerney, Conor Corcoran (Maigh Cuilinn) for Dunleavy, Dan Flaherty (Salthill Knocknacarra) 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)


By Michael O’ Connor

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