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MIX OF STRENGTH AND SKILL SEES UCD LIFT ANOTHER HARDING CUP

Ger Barron hoisted the Harding Cup high into the Galway night sky as his first clean sheet contributed to UCD winning their first Harding Cup in two years. UCD were met by a ferocious University of Limerick side in the final and had to work hard for their 3-0 win in Terryland Park.

UL started this game with a clear game plan to disrupt UCD's flowing football and for the first fifteen minutes it worked as UL took control of the game. They gave UCD very little time on the ball and as a result forced the Dublin based team into some uncharacteristic errors allowing the UL frontline several half chances. The turning point in the first half arrived after 20 minutes when a coming together between UCD forward Samir Belhout and UL's Danny Clinton resulted in a brief shoving match that resulted in a yellow card for the UL player and a realisation among the UCD players that reacting through impressive football was the best way to gain the ascendancy.

 

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Incisive passing led to UCD's Whelan breaking down the left and firing a ball across the box where Fallon's speed to the ball was too much for the UL defence to handle and a desperate lunge brought Fallon to the ground. Up stepped Samir Belhout to silence his UL detractors but his fine penalty was expertly saved by the UL keeper, Alan Coleman. UCD were not to be outdone and came flowing forward ensuring that they rose to the physical challenge while still playing attractive football.

 

The breakthrough arrived ten minutes before the break when a ball driven across the box by Tyrone McNeills was expertly finished by Danny Fallon who wheeled away in celebration knowing that with the deadlock broken and UCD in the ascendancy UL would struggle to contend with UCD's new found dominance. UL stuck to their game plan attempting to ruffle the feathers of UCD's fledglings but they remained steadfast in their will to play open attacking football while never shirking the physical nature of UL's approach. UCD deservedly added a second goal before the break when Tyrone McNeills pounced in the six yard box to stake a claim for player of the tournament. UL never gave up and started the second half in much the same fashion as the first playing a brand of football that was high in intensity and ferocity.

 

They held the upper hand in the early phases of the second half flashing a shot across Ger Barron's goal that had the UCD number 1 wondering whether today would be his day. As the pressure on the UCD defence mounted, the young side's clearances became more frantic and UL began to exert more pressure. After another poor clearance down UCD's left side UL winger, Eoghan Burke burst into the box and picked his spot only for the alert Ger Barron to read his mind and clear the ball with his feet. With UL's best chance having passed them by UCD were given the awakening they needed to close out the match and duly did so with fifteen minutes remaining in the game.

 

Danny Fallon and Barry McCabe were beginning to take a strangle hold on midfield and a clever pass through the UL defence let McNeills stretch his legs as he raced away from the despondent UL back line. McNeillss gathered the ball and closed in on the keeper, drew his foot back to shoot and at the last moment unselfishly played the ball to his erstwhile strike partner Samir Belhout who side footed home with the confidence of a man who knows where the goal is, thus ensuring UCD take the Harding Cup home to Belfield. As Ger Barron lifted the cup, UCD were hailed as the team of a fantastically competitive tournament and Samir Belhout was the man that walked away with the player of the tournament award. The UCD squad boarded the bus back to Galway with a taste of intervarsity soccer and a thirst for more.

 

UCD Team: Barron, Gahan, Ward, O'Brochlain, O'Connor, Whelan, Fallon, McCabe, Doyle, McNeills, Belhout

 

Subs: Green for Doyle, B O'Brochlain for Belhout

 

Univ. of Limerick: Coleman, Lavin, Moriarty (Tom Quinn 89), Lynch (Jonathan Nolan 53), Feeney, Burke (Daniel Downey 53), Clinton, Barron, Malone (Gavin Manifold 82), Njuki, Greany.

 

Subs: Quinn for Moriarty, Nolan for Lynch, Downey for Burke, Manifold for Malone

 

Referee: Tony Geasley (Galway)