CUFL Premier Division Semi-final
University of Limerick 3-2 NUI Maynooth
A UL side inspired by Ed O’Dwyer staged a memorable comeback yesterday (Tuesday) coming from a goal down at the break to defeat Maynooth 3-2 to secure a place in the CUFL Premier Division Final.
UL’s strong league campaign before Christmas saw them win four games from four to top the Southern Division earning them a semi-final draw against Maynooth who finished second in the Northern Division.
There was little to note in the opening twenty minutes for either team as both sides tried to impose themselves on the game, UL’s first moment to speak of came after 26 minutes when Oleg Vysochan curled an effort from the edge of the area but the Maynooth keeper dealt with his strike with relative comfort.
Just three minutes later the visitors took the lead, some fine play allowed Maynooth’s striker to get a shot on goal but Seán McCormack produced a fine save to deny his first effort, McCormack was unable to hold onto the ball however and Maynooth found the back of the net at the second time of asking.
Despite taking the lead it was the Shannonsiders who were invigorated by the goal and started to have more luck going forward with striker Ciaran Jennings and winger Theo Joyce causing headaches for the Maynooth defence.
The visitors reached half time with their slender lead intact. UL had found themselves in a similar position just six days earlier away to Trinity in the opening round of the Collingwood Cup and like last week their second half showing was a vast improvement on that of the first.
Within forty seconds of UL getting the second half underway captain Ed O’Dwyer had the ball in the Maynooth net and had the home team back on level terms. A long ball was knocked down by Jenning finding Joyce who delivered an inch perfect cross with O’Dwyer on hand to finish the move.
There were close calls for the defences of both sides soon after, in the 49th minute Joyce was played through one on one with the keeper but was adjudged to be offside much to the puzzlement of those in attendance. Hearts were in UL mouth’s after 54 minutes when McCormack was forced into action again with a Maynooth effort being cleared off the goal line.
Just a minute later UL hit the front thanks again to O’Dwyer. A UL free kick was cleared as far as the halfway line, Dara Hough found Vysochan on the left wing, cutting inside he spotted O’Dwyer waiting on the edge of the area and supplied him with possession. The Bansha man only had one thing in mind and his low driven effort nestled into the bottom corner of the Maynooth net.
Maynooth had a chance to draw level on 63 minutes when an audacious chipped effort landed just wide of McCormack’s far post. The next goal would arrive in the 69th minute seeing O’Dwyer complete his hat-trick.
On a counter attack substitute David McCarthy produced a sublime lofted pass that landed perfectly for O’Dwyer. Unphased by the onrushing Maynooth goalkeeper O’Dwyer showed the composure to calmly slot the ball low to the keeper’s left sparking wild celebrations from the Limerick players and substitute
Maynooth were not dead and buried despite the two goal deficit and McCormack produced another fine stop in the 71stminute to keep that margin intact. Maynooth were however handed a lifeline with 77 minutes on the clock. UL centre back Colm Barrett was adjudged to have fouled a Maynooth attacker on the edge of the area with the referee pointing to the spot. The visitors made no mistake from twelve yards teeing up a tense finish.
The home side would not give up their lead and celebrated a well-deserved victory when the full time whistle blew. The headlines of course will go to captain fantastic and hat-trick hero O’Dwyer but make no mistake this was an immense team effort from the entire UL squad.
The squad can now look forward to a CUFL Premier Division Final against TU Dublin the week commencing February 28.