St Mary's University have caused one of the biggest shocks in recent memory in the GAA, as the small teaching college from Belfast - with a student population of only around 1000 - defeated University College Dublin (who have an on-campus population of around 25,000) in the final of the Sigerson Cup at the Connacht GAA Centre on Sunday.
It's a result up there with Slaughtneil beating St Vincent's in the semi-final of the All-Ireland senior club championship last weekend. St Mary's, located on the Falls Road in Belfast, is more comparable to a secondary school in terms of the size of its campus and student population, whereas UCD exists on a sprawling one hundred and thirty-three hectare campus in Belfield containing a state-of-the-art student and sports centre with a fifty-metre swimming pool, two fully-equipped gyms and a team gym as well as extensive other sports facilities.
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) February 18, 2017
And, while St Mary's isn't short of inter-county players, counting Kevin McKernan of Down and Conor Myler and Cathal McShane of Tyrone among its ranks, UCD's star-studded starting line-up included All-Ireland winners Paul Mannion, Michael Fitzsimons and Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey as well as Conor McCarthy of Monaghan and Meath's Eamon Wallace.
What's more, UCD (the defending champions) have won thirty-three Sigerson Cup titles. St Mary's? Just one before this, in 1989.
'The Ranch' showed incredible fighting spirit to come back from being two goals down after just three minutes of the match - the same spirit they showed after conceding two quick-fire opening goals against UCC in the semi-final. After those goals they struck the next nine points to lead at half-time by two, and despite fighting a strong second-half gale (helped by poor UCD shooting) they took the title on a score of 0-13 to 2-6 to claim their first Sigerson crown in 28 years (their last final coming back in 1993 when they were beaten by Belfast rivals Queen's).
Myler - one of the stars of the St Mary's victory - spoke to TG4 immediately after the game and put the win in some context:
We spoke about this thing of a small college not being able to compete. 850 students, 200-odd lads, we were definitely fighting against the odds. But if you kick a dog often enough it will bite back. This is a special bunch of lads.
A phenomenal result for St Mary's. 2017: the year of the GAA underdog?
This is what it meant to the team's coach, Paddy Tally (via Jerome Quinn Media):
Other Gaels gave their reaction:
— Joe McMahon (@Bigjoemc) February 18, 2017
St Mary's are Sigerson champions - one of the gutsiest weekend performances in the competition's history. #GAA
— Niall McCoy (@McCoyNiall) February 18, 2017
— Conor.mortimer (😷)⚽️ (@Conmort) February 18, 2017
— Eamonn McGurk (@McGurkEamonn) February 18, 2017
— Brian Cawley (@Cawley_PE) February 18, 2017
— Hugh Lynn (@lthugh) February 18, 2017
— ciaran murphy (@murphysgloves) February 18, 2017