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16th Jan 2019

First game of Sigerson Cup goes to shootout drama with St Mary’s beating last year’s finalists

Niall McIntyre

St Mary’s 1-11 NUIG 1-11 (Mary’s win on free-kicks)

St Mary’s are on the charge again.

After beating all the odds to win the Sigerson Cup in 2017, the teacher training college are back at it again two years on.

They’re into the second round of this year’s competition after a thrilling encounter in Galway that was eventually decided by a free-kick taking competition.

Many of their 2017 heroes have moved on but there’s a new crop in the Belfast college this year, with Slaughtneil’s lightning forward Shane McGuigan and Derry’s Daniel McKinless the stars of the show.

And they took out a giant on Wednesday.

Despite key players Adam Gallagher and Damien Comer both passing through NUIG, the spine of last year’s successful group is still there and of the team that lost the decider to UCD in early 2018, nine of them were playing in this one while addition of Galway senior Michael Daly gave them even more firepower up top.

NUIG team

St Mary’s team

And they meant business from the off.

The home side started like thoroughbreds in a hurry, Galway man Rob Finnerty scoring two of their three early points with Kieran Molloy again showing that he thrives as much as anybody in the Sigerson environment.

But St Mary’s were up for the fight.

Tyrone’s Stephen McConville settled them into it with a free before Aaron Boyle slotted a penalty just before half-time.

The teams traded blows from here on in, with NUIG steeling a march initially through the impressive Finnerty and their roving corner back Kevin McDonnell who struck two beauties from distance.

And despite that firing them into a three point lead with fifteen minutes left, the dogged St Mary’s came roaring back. Slaughtneil’s Shane McGuigan kicked two clutch scores before another Derry man Daniel McKinless stood up to level it right at the death.

Onto extra-time they went.

McConville drew first blood with an early score for the Belfast men but NUIG came back for more, Daly landing a raker of a free before the man for the big moment, Kieran Molloy stepped up to put the men in maroon one up with the clock ticking.

It all turned to mayhem then with Mary’s chasing a late equaliser and with NUIG defending for their lives. Two Galway men were black carded, in Daly and Robinson before Stephen McConville saved the away side’s bacon one more.

And there was a shootout to come.

With all Sigerson Cup games decided on the day, it went to a free-taking competition which Mary’s won by 4-2 each and every one of their kickers nailing their efforts.

Watch the winning kick here, from the boot of Liam Rafferty who was unfazed by the hostile home atmosphere.

Mary’s progress while the Galway men will have one more chance to keep their campaign alive.

The Sigerson Cup is back!

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