Shane O’Donoghue’s hat-trick ended Ulster’s dream of landing the Under 21 Inter-provincial title in front of home supporters yesterday.
Needing only to draw with Leinster to wrench the title from the Dubliners, Ulster edged ahead on 17 minutes, when Stephen Dowds put the home side in the driving seat.
But 10 minutes later, up stepped O’Donoghue to drill home one of his trade-mark penalty corners to level the score.
However, Ulster restored their lead seven minutes into the second half, when Hugh McShane collected a Dowds cross, to make it 2-1.
With Ulster seemingly content to hold on to their slim lead, disaster struck in the 60th minute, after O’Donoghue collected his second goal, smashing home another penalty corner to level it.
Ulster were on the rocks, as Leinster could taste victory and three minutes later, with the Ulster defence in disarray Leinster won another penalty corner, which O’Donaghue dispatched with aplumbe to give the Leinster side the Under 21 crown.
After the game, Ulster coach Stephen Cuddy said: “I thought we had enough chances and possession to win the game. But, at this level penalty corners can be critical and Leinster proved that.
“I felt in the grand scheme of things we were the better side but we didn’t get the job done.
“I never thought we had the game in the bag with 10 minutes to go. I have had enough disappointments to know that games can be won in the last 10 minutes.
“Leinster have some very good players and likewise we have to. We knew Shane O’Donoghue was going to be very dangerous, especially at penalty corners and he proved that today.
“It is disappointing that it has to come down to corners but that is the way the game is at the moment. I couldn’t be more pleased with the performance the guys put in.
“The preparations went well and our aim was to go unbeaten but unfortunately we came up a wee bit shy of that today.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Shamrocks notched up their first win of the tournament, when the Under 18 side defeated Munster 3-1 to avoid the wooden spoon.
After the tournament, the draw for the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals was made and Ulster’s only representatives Banbridge have been handed a tough draw, as they will face Leinster king-pins Pembroke Wanderers.
In the other semi, Monkstown will play Three Rock Rovers.
The semis will be played on 23 March in Dublin.
Placings: 1st Leinster 9pts; 2nd Ulster 6pts; 3rd Irish Under 18’s 3pts; 4th Munster 0pts
Squad: Ben McMillan (Mossley); Matthew Rollins (Cookstown); John Edgar (Annadale); Matthew Leckey (Raphoe); Josh Moffet (Banbridge); Connor Roberts (Annadale); Peter Brown (Banbridge); William Edgar (Annadale); Stephen Dowds (Banbridge) capt. Owen Magee (Banbridge); Matthew Allister (Annadale); Ryan Millar (Cookstown); Neal Glassey (Mossley); Andy Williamson (Annadale); Adam McCann (Lisnagarvey); Adam McCann (Lisnagarvey); Hugh McShane (Banbridge) Michael Anderson (Cookstown) Coach Stephen Cuddy