Queen's claim Freshers Football Championship
Queens 4-10 DCU 4-6
Queen’s University claimed their first All Ireland title at Fresher level for ten years at a wet and windy Peter Keeley Park, Silverbridge in a final of high drama and sublime finishing which remained in the balance until the dying moments. In a game that Queen’s led from gun to tape, the tenacity of a stubborn and talented DCU team meant that the Belfast men were forced to reach well into their reserves to hold the Dubliners at bay throughout an hour of high quality football.
Queen’s played with a strong breeze at their back in the first half and spent the opening minutes creating but squandering scoring opportunities. This ended emphatically in the seventh minute when Ryan Murray finished to the DCU net after Ryan Rafferty had cut through the defence and saw his initial shot parried.
Following a ten minute period of both sides swapping points, the game opened up into a goal frenzy. Rafferty cut loose again and danced past several desperate challenges before firing past the keeper from close range to push his team seven points clear. DCU responded with haste after the Queen’s defence switched off for a quick free kick and gave up a goal which gave the Dubliners a foothold back in a game which appeared to be slipping away. Almost immediately, Rafferty tore through the DCU double marking and beat the keeper again after the most delicate of footwork.
Half time: Queens 3-04, DCU 1-03.
The second half opened with another increase in the pace and intensity of the game. DCU pressed hard in the opening minutes, determined to make use of the breeze that would aid them for the remainder of the game. As the reigning champions raised their game, so too did the Queen’s men and a period of relentless DCU attack was quelled before the Northerners broke up field to register the first score through a sublime long range free into the elements from Captain Caolan Daly.
Any thoughts of having weathered the storm were dispelled when DCU fought back with 1-02 in a minute to reduce the lead to four points. Ryan Murray steadied the ship with two fine frees before the arrears were cut to three with another scrambled DCU major as the reigning champions fought to hold onto the crown they had won in two of the previous three seasons.
With ten minutes on clock the game was very much in the balance. The Dubliners had conjured a way back into the game and were playing with abandon and momentum. But, as they have done so already in this camppaign, Queen’s responded heroically when the outcome has been in doubt. The hero this time was to be substitute Donal Hughes who was to add 1 – 02 in the final eight minutes. There was still time for a well worked DCU goal to keep all nerves on edge.
In claiming the title, Queen's became the first Ulster side to win the championship which is now in its fifth year (DCU and DIT have shared the titles since its inception in 2008). The Belfast college add this to their 8 league-championships, last won in 2002. DCU finish the season as league winners and both colleges can look with plenty of hope to the next few years.