UCC 1-23 Imokilly 1-20
CHAMPIONS Imokilly are out of the Co-Op Superstores Cork Premier SHC after a terrific clash with UCC at Páirc Uí Rinn.
In the final of the colleges-divisional section, which the East Cork outfit were seeded through to, the College came in on the back of an impressive victory over Duhallow last Tuesday. That was probably a major factor as they really roared out of the traps.
They led for the majority of the contest until the favourites battled back from eight points down early in the second half to steal the lead. Will Leahy pounced for a goal as the game headed into injury time, just after a stunning Mark Coleman sideline for UCC.
Leahy's goal gave Imokilly a two-point lead but the College refused to wilt. They scored the last four points across three minutes of additional time, through Neil Montgomery, Shane Barrett, who was excellent on his introduction, and sub Daithí Heffernan to wrestle back a victory.
It was no more than they deserved, with Coleman outstanding as he swept across the half-back line in trademark fashion, while Éire Óg's Dylan Desmond impressed in goal, Montgomery finished with 0-5 from play and the likes of David Griffin, Karl Walsh, Brian Kelleher, Limerick's Paddy O'Loughlin and former Cork minor captain James Keating dug deep in the last 10 minutes.
UCC had made all the early running.
Owen McCarthy nailed an early goal, while Shane Conway, Brian Verling and Neil Montgomery were razor sharp in front of the posts, after Imokilly's four in a row hopes were dealt a pre-match blow with an injury to captain Seamus Harnedy.
Just 12 minutes in it was 1-9 to the 0-3 to the College, but Imokilly settled, thanks to the experience of Bill Cooper, Colm Barry and John Cronin. They were six down at the break, and had they been more clinical in front of the posts the gap would have been smaller.
Verling got a lovely point to get UCC off the mark for the second half, followed by Barrett and Conway scores, but Imokilly subs John Looney and Josh Beausang made a major difference. And Imokilly began to use their physicality to cut off the supply to the College's inside line while also earning frees Will Leahy converted.
By the time Barry Lawton and Daire O'Leary scored to make it 1-17 to 0-18, the momentum had swung firmly back to the champs.
Then came a period of ferocious intensity as both teams struggled to get scores on the board. A soaring Coleman sideline looked to have given UCC the victory, before Leahy's goal and then more action in injury time.
Imokilly couldn't quibble with the result, while the absence of Harnedy and Castlelyons' Colm Spillane, along with the Fr O'Neill's and Cloyne contingent no longer eligible through the expansion of senior hurling into two grades, put them on the backfoot before throw-in.
Credit UCC though, who after two Fitzgibbon Cups in a row, know how to win tight games.
They'll be a tricky opponent for whatever club meets them in the quarter-final.
Scorers for UCC: S Conway 0-6 (0-4 f), N Montgomery 0-5, O McCarthy 1-1, S Barrett 0-3, B Verling, B Kelleher 0-2 each, K Walsh, M Coleman (sl), D Heffernan, P Power 0-1 each.
Imokilly: W. Leahy 1-8 (0-7 f), Barry Lawton 0-3, B Cooper, L O’Shea, J Looney 0-2 each, D O’Leary, N O’Leary, J Beausang 0-1 each.
IMOKILLY: J Barry (Castlelyons); D O’Brien (St Ita’s), Colm Barry (Castlelyons), M Russell (Aghada); C O’Brien (St Ita’s), N O’Leary (Castlelyons), J Cronin (Lisgoold); S Hegarty (Dungourney), B Cooper (Youghal); Brian Lawton (Castlemartyr), Barry Lawton (Castlemartyr), L O’Shea (Lisgoold); B Mulcahy (St Catherine’s), S Óg O’Regan (Watergrasshill), W Leahy (Aghada).
Subs: J Looney (Aghada) for Mulcahy (h-t); D O’Leary (Watergrasshill) for D O’Brien (40); J Beausang (Russell Rovers) for O’Shea (43); D. Heffernan (Blackrock, Limerick) for Verling (52).
UCC: D Desmond (Éire Óg); E Clifford (Cloughduv), D Lowney (Clonakilty), D Griffin (Carrigaline); M Coleman (Blarney), P O’Loughlin (Kilmallock, Limerick), J Keating (Kildorrery); K O’Leary (Castlelyons), K Walsh (Ballincollig); N Montgomery (Abbeyside, Waterford), S Conway (Lixnaw, Kerry), E Desmond (Carrigaline); B Kelleher (Carrigaline), B Verling (Cloughduv), O McCarthy (Inniscarra).
Subs: S Barrett (Blarney) for K O’Leary (15 inj); P Power (Blarney) for Desmond (44); M O’Leary (Valley Rovers) for Lowney (49).
Referee: Simon Stokes (Tullylease).