Mark Coleman nailed the winning sideline cut in the fifth minute of added-time as champions UCC qualified for the Fitzgibbon Cup final with the most dramatic of victories over hosts DCU by a 0-18 to 0-17 scoreline.
With five minutes remaining DCU were two points clear, but points from Neil Montgomery and Mark Kehoe levelled matters after 60 minutes. Both sides had chances to win it before Coleman slotted the seemingly impossible sideline from the left into a powerful wind to leave UCC's hopes of a 40th title alive.
Defeat was very tough on DCU, who looked certain to join IT Carlow in Wednesday’s final, but Rory O’Connor’s 11 points weren't enough and they were denied at the death.
As it did in the opening game of the day, the stormy conditions played havoc with the action at DCU Sportsgrounds, but after the first half the teams had shared 22 points equally as they gradually grew into the action.
Tied at the interval, DCU would most certainly have been the happier team considering they trailed by six points with eight minutes to go before half time, while their nine first-half wides meant they did well to be in touch at all.
It was Cork senior Darragh Fitzgibbon who pointed first after 25 seconds, but at the other end DCU’s free taker Rory O’Connor soon levelled matters. By the fourth minute DCU had accumulated four of that wides tally, and the defending champions showed little trouble in front of goal with Shane Kingston and Shane Conway both on target as they pulled ahead.
Conway's second free put UCC 0-5 to 0-1 ahead, but either side of that free Kingston and Fitzgibbon were denied by excellent saves from DCU goalkeeper Oisin Foley, who kept his side in the game.
Kingston was giving plenty of problems to Paddy Smyth at full back, and after James Bergin kept DCU in touch, Conway, Robbie O’Flynn and Kingston opened out that six-point cushion for UCC.
A combination of silly fouling and poor shooting looked like destroying DCU’s hopes, but they finally settled in the closing minutes of the half. James Burke started their comeback with a great score, while O’Connor’s frees and further points from early substitutes Darren Mullen and Adrian Mullen meant DCU closed back to 0-11 each at the break.
A point from O’Connor gave DCU the lead for the first time straight after the restart, which he soon added to with his eighth of the game – a fifth straight score from his side – as they got off to a great start in the second period.
It was turning into a battle of the free takers as Conway and O’Connor exchanged point from long range, but with DCU 0-14 to 0-12 to the good, a second final in three attempts was looking likely.
As darkness descended conditions started to worsen and a trio of O’Connor frees stretched DCU’s lead, and it wasn’t until the 49th minute that UCC’s Montgomery struck the first point from play in the second period.
UCC backed that up with another score from sub Michael O’Halloran, which cut the gap to one point, while a Donal Burke effort at the other end was immediately cancelled out by a stunning effort from wide on the left by Montgomery.
Montgomery flashed a shot wide with three minutes to go, which would have levelled matters, but Mark Kehoe then landed a brilliant score from the right to make it 0-17 each with a minute remaining.
The stage was set for a hero to step forward, and after Adrian Mullen missed from long range, Coleman drilled over the winner for UCC.
UCC: Shane Hurley; Killian O’Dwyer, Robert Downey, David Lowney; Paddy Cadell, Paddy O’Loughlin, David Griffin; Mark Coleman (0-01, 0-01’sl), Niall O’Leary; Robbie O’Flynn (0-01), Shane Conway (0-08, 0-07f), Conor Boylan; Darrgh Fitzgibbon (0-01), Mark Kehoe (0-01), Shane Kingston (0-03). Subs: Michael O’Halloran (0-01) for Griffin (39), Neil Montgomery (0-02) for Boylan (44), Bill Sheehan for O’Flynn (52), Andrew Casey for Fitzgibbon (63).
DCU: Oisin Foley; Conor Firman, Paddy Smyth, Conor Burke; Lee Gannon, Brian Ryan, Evan Shefflin; Damien Reck, Rian McBride; John Donnelly, James Burke (0-01), Rory O’Connor (0-11, 0-10f); James Bergin (0-2), Jim Ryan, Donal Burke (0-01). Subs: Darren Mullen (0-01) for Shefflin (24), Adrian Mullen (0-01) for J Ryan (26), Fergal Whitely for J Burke (52), Fintan MacGibb for Bergin (61).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).