Trinity’s saving Grace secures victory in Farquhar final

The hosts get the job done after a thrilling penalty shootout in College Park

Dublin University Association Football Club (DUAFC) are the 2020 Farquhar Cup champions, edging past Maynooth University in a gripping penalty shootout in the final at College Park on Wednesday. A brace from James Woods, along with a goal from Dylan Connolly, saw the hosts take a 3-1 lead with half an hour to go, but Maynooth brought the game back level in injury time. Trinity goalkeeper Daniel Grace was the star of the subsequent shootout, his four saves keeping the home side in the fixture, before Stephen Doran slotted home the winning penalty, sealing victory for the hosts.

After a disappointing 3-1 defeat to UCC in the Collingwood quarter-final on Monday, DUAFC joined the other beaten quarter-finalists in the Farquhar Cup. They played out a 1-1 draw against Queen’s University Belfast in the semi-final on Tuesday, but booked their place in the final with a 4-3 win in the penalty shootout. Maynooth’s Collingwood campaign was ended by a spirited performance from DCU, but a 2-1 win over UCD earned them a spot in the Farquhar decider. Trinity Sport ambassador Hugo MacNeill observed the match with misty-eyed nostalgia, no doubt; it was on this very ground that his two goals against Maynooth proved the difference in the 1979 final. 

Maynooth were more impressive during the opening exchanges, with most of their attack stemming from their full backs in the wide channels. They were particularly efficient on the left flank, with Longford Town’s Aaron McNally linking up well with Leon Kennedy. This youthful Maynooth side were hungry and held the lion’s share of the possession in the early stages. This was a side well-accustomed to cup football; seven of the starting XI played in the Harding Cup final loss to UCD in November. Trinity, on the other hand, were struggling to get a foothold in the match, with counter-attacking opportunities not really sticking, although credit must go to a resilient Maynooth back-four.

Once the home side had settled, they began to string together some exciting moves. Most of the attacking threat came from the thrilling trio of Connolly, Darragh McGee, and James Kelly. Nice link-up play on the right edge of the Maynooth box gave them a few good chances, but to no avail. Trinity were happy to sit back in their own half and let Maynooth have the possession. Operating with five at the back for most of the game, the hosts sought to soak up the pressure from the visitors, before pouncing when the right opportunity came along.

However, Maynooth managed to strike first, punishing Trinity for their functional approach. Clearing from a Trinity corner, Maynooth were suddenly on the break, and while the Trinity defenders did just enough to limit the pace of the attack, the ball found its way to McNally. His probing cross found Callum Worfield who headed it home to give the visitors the lead. The goal seemed to inspire the hosts, but there was an air of desperation about them in their movements. 

At last, the breakthrough. Woods’ free kick from 30 yards swung into the Maynooth box and Connolly got on the end of it, beating the Maynooth keeper Mal Doyle with a superb header. Doyle gave his defenders an earful, and rightly so; they should have been able to beat Connolly to the cross, given their height advantage. In any case, Trinity were back on level terms and rapidly gaining momentum. In no mood to sit back and defend, Trinity were immediately pressing for a second goal. Three minutes from the break, James Woods went on a surging run from the left and, with the help of some woeful defending from Maynooth, slotted home to leave Trinity 2-1 up at half time. 

The hosts picked up from where they left off, starting the second period with frightening pace. The visitors had made wholesale changes at the break, hoping that Raj Tajudeen, Eoin O’Neil and Padraig Finnerty could swing things back in their favour. Their task became even more difficult on 51 minutes, when a James Woods free kick took an unfortunate deflection, giving Doyle no chance as the home side doubled their advantage. 

Trinity still pressed, looking to put the game beyond doubt. They didn’t let up, turning the screw on the visitors with ferocious counter-attacks. Maynooth were very uncomfortable and it began to show. They were lucky not to give away a penalty, with Woods taking a tumble in the box, but the referee waved away the appeals from the Trinity players. Finally, the visitors were able to pull one back. Tajudeen collected the ball from a throw-in and swerved past the Trinity defenders, before guiding the ball past Daniel Grace in the Trinity goal. 

With their work cut out for them, Trinity did their level best to prevent Maynooth from getting a vital equaliser and, for the most part, seemed to cope well with the visitors’ onslaught. Captain Jason Boateng joined the backs from midfield to further strengthen the defensive line. Meanwhile, substitute Niall Carruthers dazzled the crowd with silky skills and merciless nutmegs. 

However, Maynooth found a way through in injury time. After a sustained attack from the visitors, Grace came out past the left post to smother a Maynooth shot, before the ball fell to Cillian Duffy, the Trinity players somehow unable to deal with his unremarkable, bobbling effort. The referee blew the full-time whistle soon after, and the 2020 Farquhar Cup Champions would be decided with football’s Russian roulette: the dreaded penalty shootout. Goalkeeper Grace rose to the challenge, and made four impressive saves, including a decisive block on Doyle’s swirling effort, and while a College Park crowd held its breath, Doran’s cool finish saw the spoils of victory go to the home side. 

Speaking after the final to Trinity News, Jason Boateng praised his teammates’ energy, particularly after an arduous few days: “Some of these lads have played 270 minutes of football over the last few days, so it’s an incredible achievement for us to win. This is my last game ever for Trinity, so picking up a bit of silverware is not a bad way to go out. I’m really, really proud of the lads and I’m glad we could get it done.”

Cameron Hill

Cameron Hill was the Sports Editor of Trinity News for Michaelmas 2018. He is a Senior Fresh English Literature and French student.