UCC have their critics but proved again what they add to the Cork championships

UCC have their critics but proved again what they add to the Cork championships
UCC's Shane Conway steals an arms length away from Colm Barry of Imokilly during the Premier Senior Hurling Divisional/College final in Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Howard Crowdy

LAST season there were 13 games in all in the divisions/colleges sections of the county senior hurling and football championships.

They concluded with UCC and Imokilly progressing in hurling and the College as well as Duhallow advancing in football.

Imokilly went on to defend their title and complete an historic three-in-a-row while Duhallow reached the football decider only to lose to Nemo Rangers.

This season, the number of games plummeted to four, two in each, with only UCC, Duhallow, Imokilly and Carbery entering teams.

College and the north-west representatives figured in both and that speaks volumes about their commitment to the championships notwithstanding the obvious problems and difficulties in mustering teams across the county.

This Covid-19 impacted championship season is like no other and we can fully understand the challenges faced by the other divisions and CIT in not engaging in 2020.

It’s hard enough for clubs to plot their own truncated seasons never mind coming together as representative teams and that applies to management and players alike.

So, there’s much credit due to those who did participate and while there may have a shortage in quantity, it was more than compensated by the quality of the fare provided in both codes.

College ended Imokilly’s reign as hurling champions with a gutsy finish in a hectic conclusion while their footballers managed to score six goals and still come out on the wrong side of a 10-goal thriller against Duhallow.

The Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups are the Holy Grail of college life and UCC’s record of 40 hurling title and 23 football doesn’t require any embellishment.

Their attitude to the championships has always been that ‘we’ll show up because we’ve great respect for the two competitions and we’ll give it our best shot.’

UCC’s participation is to the benefit of Cork clubs, despite the moaners, as reflected in the last week.

College teams generally have a sprinkling of recent Cork under-age players in both codes to add to the more celebrated handful of seniors.

In their 3-22 to 2-13 hurling win over Duhallow in the semi-final, College started with 11 players from Cork clubs, ranging from three in premier intermediate to one at junior level, the sixth tier.

Carrigaline, who play premier intermediate, had three representatives, midfielder David Griffin and Eanna Desmond and Brian Kelleher in attack.

Kevin O’Leary represented Castleyons and Owen McCarthy, Inniscarra, the other clubs in the same grade.

College were captained by goalkeeper Dylan Desmond from Éire Óg, who are one of three clubs competing at intermediate level.

Cloughduv had a couple of players, defender Eoghan Clifford and corner-forward Brian Verling while James Keating from Kildorrery was at midfield.

Full-back was David Lowney from Clonakilty, who are striving for the junior title in a very competitive Carbery division.

The team which started against Imokilly showed a number of changes with Karl Walsh from Ballincollig, who play premier intermediate, lining up alongside O’Leary, whose brother Niall, ex-UCC, from Castlelyons featured for the champions.

Kevin, though, had to retire injured early, replaced by Blarney’s Shane Barrett, who brought his under-age county experience by contributing three important points.

Historically, Kerry players dominate the College football side, but they were only three from the Kingdom, two more from Meath and one from Limerick in the 0-16 to 0-11 win over Carbery in the semi-final.

Conor O'Callaghan (Duhallow) lays off the ball against UCC. Picture: John Tarrant
Conor O'Callaghan (Duhallow) lays off the ball against UCC. Picture: John Tarrant

And like the hurling, there was a wide spread of Cork clubs, seven in all represented by nine players, and again it was across all the various grades from premier intermediate to junior.

Wing-back Alan Quinn was the sole premier intermediate club, Macroom, on view with four intermediate clubs represented.

Glanmire pair, Conor Crowley and Shane O’Driscoll, were in attack, Conor Smith (Aghabullogue) at corner-back, Jack Twomey (Kilshanning) and Mayfield’s Dan Lucey up front.

Interestingly, there were three players from a couple of rivals in the Muskerry junior championship.

Canovee supplied Evan Dodd and Eoghan Lehane in the half-back line while Sean Desmond from Clondrohid was at midfield. Four more players from Cork clubs saw action from the bench.

There’ll be more balancing acts for the hurlers as they wait the identity of their quarter-final opponents at the weekend.

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