10 December 2016
Five regional winners advanced this week to the CUFL National Futsal Cup finals.
IT Blanchardstown booked their place in the national finals with victory over their own B team in the final.
During the group stage, the A team opened their campaign with a draw with Griffith College 'B' before remaining unbeaten throughout. The B team would only drop points once, narrowly to the A team.
Dublin IT emerged from Group 2 with a 2-1 victory over former national champions National College of Ireland in DKIT.
Both sides navigated their way through the groups undefeated with nervous stages along the way. With both sides needing victories to guarantee a final showdown, they would both relinquish early leads to be deadlocked heading into the final few minutes of their games against Dublin City University's A and B teams before their dominance would prevail and provide them with the goals necessary for victory.
In the finale, goals from Paul Kennedy and Jordi Ebanda put the Grangegorman side ahead before the IFSC-based NCI pulled a goal back through Ayomale Obafemi-Kikodu to make the final few minutes for a tense affair for Gavin Fleming's side who were relieved to hear the final whistle and keep them in all third-level competitions heading into 2017.
After some cracking group stage games Waterford IT, last year's national champions, came through in what was a most exciting Futsal Southeast Regional group stage.
Waterford IT, IT Carlow A and B, and surprise package Carlow Institute of FE all emerged from the group stages to contest semi-finals. In the first of those clashes, Waterford IT A and IT Carlow A began cautiously before a piece of magic from WIT's Cormac Breslin saw him swivel and plant the Ball into the corner of the net for a great goal. It was now IT Carlow's opportunity to turn the screw and only for some superb last ditch defending from Waterford United defender Ian Sinnott and fantastic goalkeeping from the Cork City net minder Mathew Connor kept IT Carlow at bay. With the clock ticking down a great counter attacking move from WIT saw that Breslin finish off a superb team goal in style.
The second semi-final was a much more open affair a game played with real attacking pace with both teams looking for the breakthrough to send them into the final. In the end it was the dark horses of Carlow Institute of FE that came through after a pulsating 3-2 win over local rivals IT Carlow B. They took the lead on two occasions only to see IT Carlow 'B' peg them back. With IT Carlow looking to have the upper hand entering the final stages, a brilliantly executed counter attack saw Conor Owens from Carlow Institute of FE smash the ball to put them through to the final in their first time participating in CUFL Futsal.
The Final turned out to be a bridge to far for Carlow Institute FE and when ex-Wexford Youths and Waterford United player Shane Nolan gave WIT the advantage with a fantastic flick header early in the game Carlow FE were forced to chase the game and opened themselves up for WIT to pick them off with some excellent counter attacking play, Nolan again scoring from the spot after Breslin had been brought down in the box then Graham Byrne getting in on the act to run out 3-0 winners.
CIT claimed the scalp of their city rivals UCC to progress to the nationals after a 3-1 victory in the final at the Mardyke.
IT Sligo join the quintet of finalists heading to the impressive WIT Arena in January after a penalty shootout victory over regular national finalists Athlone IT.
With experience over GMIT Galway and GMIT Mayo, both finalists had no trouble reaching the final before the cliché "unstoppable force meets the immovable object" finale clash which required a dreaded shootout to allow the North-West side plan for a trip to the South-East in 2017.
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CUFL National Futsal Final
24th January 2017
IT Blanchardstown, Dublin IT, Waterford IT, Cork IT, IT Sligo