By Martin Mannering
At Páirc na hÉireann
Liverpool’s Hope University confirmed their domination of Third Level GAA by adding the All Britain Championship to their previous successes in the League and the recent Corn na mac Leann Cup.
Credit must indeed go to all who took part in the tournament as they battled through the mud at a rain sodden Pairc na hEireann at the weekend, but it was the Liverpool lads who handled the conditions best to go on and overcome St Mary’s University of Twickenham in the final 1-11 to 1-6.
In the group stages, which took place on Saturday, Hope mapped a fairly straight forward path by opening with a comprehensive 14-point win over Northumberland, whom they kept scoreless.
They faced a much sterner test in their second outing against Herriott Watt, but held their nerve to squeeze home by 0-4 to 0-2.
A Shay Cadden goal set them on their way to sealing the group with a 2-3 to 0-0 win in their final match with University of Birmingham.
In the other group, St Mary’s University squeezed through against last year’s winners RGU Aberdeen.
See Liverpool Hope’s goal and celebrations as they beat St Mary’s Twickenham by 5 points to win the Mens Division 1 Championship today! pic.twitter.com/aaEVInYIBk
— University GAA (@UniversityGAA) March 11, 2018
Both had relatively comfortable wins in their opening two games, against Nottingham and UCL respectively, although the latter gave RGU a close run going down by the narrowest of margins.
The group decider was the game of the day as both sides went for the jugular, and the tie remained on a knife edge right up until the final whistle.
The crucial score came half-way through the second half when Graham Lawlor was on hand to rattle the net after Cian Fitzsimmons’ thunderbolt had been turned away.
The final itself saw a highly competitive first half with Hope just keeping their noses in front, with Karl McCallion and Shay Cadden keeping the scoreboard ticking.
The accuracy of London senior footballer and former Monaghan U21 star Fearghal McMahon kept St Mary’s in touch, however, and the Twickenham side went in at the break trailing by 0-5 to 0-3.
Hope began to turn the screw on the restart with Conor Boyle and the excellent Jonathon Hardy leading from the back and Cadden, McCallion and Corey Ranaghan causing problems up front.
Two early points were followed by a pivotal score as Caomhan Boyle cut through for a goal to go seven clear.
St Mary’s rallied admirably and McMahon tacked on a couple of frees before breaking through to rattle the net to reduce the gap to just three as the game entered the final quarter.
But that was as close as they got as Hope kept their composure and by the end they had five points to spare to cap a remarkable season for the Liverpool side.
Captain Conor Boyle accepted the cup from Kevin McDonagh (pictured).
Meanwhile, at an equally rain sodden Manchester, Glasgow Caledonian collected the Division 2 title with victory over Uni of Manchester by 2-11 to 2-4.
The Division 3 title went to Loughborough, who beat Uni of Birmingham B in the final by 3-7 to 0-1.