Trinity started their final group game against DIT knowing that a draw would send them into the knockout stages of the competition. However, it was clear from the outset that the home side were going to attempt to win the game, and the group.
The game started at a frenetic pace with captain Evin O’Reilly showing some beautiful touches in the opening exhanges and it was not long before Trinity took the lead. Cormac Ryan picked the ball up on the left wing, delivered a perfectly lofted cross into the area and striker Ciaran Lawler, Trinity’s top scorer this season so far, slid in to poke home at the back post and send the Trinity bench into raptures.
The college continued to attack and press for the second goal and DIT were pinned back into their own half for long periods of the first 45. Just before the break the in-form Lawler had a great chance to give Trinity some breathing space. After a defensive mix up he found himself in space, one on one with DIT keeper Tristan King, but inexcusably put the ball well wide of the goal.
After the break DIT came out looking like a different team. They got far tighter on Trinity’s midfielders and held on to possession much better, pushing Trinity’s defence further and further into their own half. However, John Lavelle and Colin Hyland, Trinity’s centre-backs, were providing a master class in defending, seemingly winning every header and tackle that came their way. Meanwhile, the pacey Daniel Moriarty and industrious Lawler were proving to be a constant threat on the break.
Niall O’Carroll had made a string of excellent saves to keep Trinity ahead but on the hour mark, the face of the game changed completely. DIT won a free kick on the right hand side of the box and Stephen Roche glanced a header downward past O’Carroll towards goal after a great delivery. Chris Allen, guarding the far post, instinctively stuck out his hand to block the ball. He instantly regretted his decision, and the referee was left with no option but to send him off. However, Allen and the entire Trinity bench breathed a huge sigh of relief when DIT’s full back Killian Gallagher blazed the ball high over the bar from the resulting spot kick.
Striker Moriarty was then sacrificed by manager Jimmy Cummiskey in exchange for midfielder Oisin McMahon and Trinity changed to a defensive 4-4-1 formation. The college were then pinned back in their own half as DIT desperately pressed for an equalizer. Trinity were determined to hold on, however, battling tenaciously for every loose ball. Their commitment was personified by the tireless Lawler, the lone striker chasing down hopeful long ball after hopeful long ball.
Despite their best efforts, with ten minutes left on the clock the Trinity defense was finally breached. DIT broke down the right hand side, whipped in an early cross and some truly horrendous marking left DIT substitute Kyle Cawley with the easiest of finishes past O’Carroll
It was to get worse for Trinity, however. DIT knew that a draw probably wouldn’t be enough to qualify for the knockout stages and they threw everything at Trinity in the final minutes of the game. With five minutes left on the clock Trinity gave away a second, and highly questionable, penalty. It was cruel that Trinity’s best player on the day, Colin Hyland, was the one punished by the referee. The Trinity centre-back ran out to meet an onrushing DIT player and as the shot came in it ricocheted off his hand. It was most certainly a case of ball to hand but unfortunately for the college, the referee didn’t see it that way.
DIT changed their penalty taker and this time they made no mistake, Roche rifling the ball into the top right hand corner of O’Carroll’s goal. The drama still wasn’t finished and in stoppage time Trinity had a glorious chance to snatch a point and ensure qualification. John Lavelle picked up the ball in his own half and played a superb ball up the line for Cormac Ryan. The Trinity midfielder found himself in acres of space but his first touch let him down and he played the ball across the box just slightly behind the onrushing Hyland, attempting to atone for conceding the penalty. The lanky centre back somehow managed to get a foot on the ball but agonizingly for Trinity, the ball went inches wide. Trinity’s players walked off the field in disbelief at the final whistle, trying to come to terms with a defeat in a game that, only ten minutes previously, had seemed certain to end in victory. The players waited anxiously to hear the result of the other game in the group, knowing that a draw or better for DCU would guarantee them qualification. Luck quite simply was not on Trinity’s side today however, and as news filtered through that Colaiste Ide had beaten the Glasnevin college 3-1, Trinity’s footballers had to accept elimination from a competition in which they had started so brightly.
DUAFC are still looking strong in their division in the Leinster Senior League, and if they continue to play with the drive and determination on show today, it won’t be too long before they get back to winning ways.