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A last-ditch tackle from Damien Bourke prevented UCC from coughing up a seven-point lead in Carlow tonight, as the 23-time champions just about held off a late surge from TU Dublin and narrowly scraped through to set up an All-Munster final next Wednesday night in Waterford; just the second ever such occasion, following on from the 1999 final where IT Tralee edged out Garda College.
With Cathail OMahony in fine form up front, and the midfield pairing of Shane Merritt and Brian Hartnett doing well in the battle for primary possession, UCC looked very sharp in the opening half, and they worked their way up to a six-point lead at half-time.
But for four first half wides and a fantastic save from Darragh Brooks to deny Dylan Geaney, they could have been out of sight. Instead, a wonderfully composed close range finish from Dylan Geaney and some well-taken points from Brian Hartnett and Killian Falvey made it 1-7 to 0-4 at the break, with only Ryan Deegan making any impression up front for TU Dublin, firing over two highlight reel points.
That lead was briefly extended to seven following a fisted point from Fionn Herlihy on the first attack after the half-time interval, one of three points from play from the Dohenys club man, but TU Dublin started to take over from there, with a nice strike from Jack Flynn on the run kicking off a run of four points in a row.
Cathail OMahony stemmed the tide with a race of quickfire points to briefly push the lead back out to five, 1-11 to 0-9, but DCU rallied again and two scores each from Shane Cunnane and Sen Guiden, with OMahonys sixth point of the night in between, set up a tense finish.
A full-length diving block from Shane Cunnane to deny Sen OConnor at one end kept TUDs hopes alive, and when Guiden played in Darragh Campion some 15 metres from goal, the smash-and-grab victory was on if the Meath man could find a way past Dylan Foley with his shot.
Damien Bourke was to prove the hero for UCC however as his immaculately-timed tackle forced a turnover, and the Cork students were able to snaffle up the loose ball with the last play of the game.
Scorers for UCC: Cathail OMahony 0-6 0-2f, Dylan Geaney 1-0, Fionn Herlihy 0-3, Ruair Murphy 0-1, Brian Hartnett 0-1, Killian Falvey 0-1.
Scorers for TUD: San Guiden 0-3 0-1f, Shane Cunnane 0-3f, Ryan Deegan 0-2, Jack Flynn 0-2, Kevin Callaghan 0-1m, Darragh Campion 0-1, Robbie McAllister 0-1.
UCC: Dylan Foley; Brain Murphy, Daniel OMahony, Damien Bourke; Maurice Shanley, Rair Murphy, Bill Curtin; Shane Merritt, Brian Hartnett; Jack Murphy, Fionn Herlihy, Killian Falvey; Dylan Geaney, Mark Cronin, Cathail OMahony.
Subs: Sean OConnor for Geaney 52, Michael OGara for Falvey 52
TUD: Darragh Brooks; Cian Dooner, Fintan OShea, Sen Ryan; Niall Carolan, Cathal Hickey, Killian McGinnis; Kevin Callaghan, Shane Cunnane; Sean Guiden, Mark Lavin, Ryan ODwyer; Robbie McAllister, Ryan Deegan, Darragh Campion.
Subs: Jack Flynn for ODwyer 25, Eoin Duffy for OShea half-time, Luke Swan for Callaghan 48, Jack Lundy for Dooner 53, Fionn Murray for McAllister 60
Referee: David Gough Meath.
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