Upholding UCC's Fitzgibbon Cup tradition is a special privilege for Tom Kingston

Upholding UCC's Fitzgibbon Cup tradition is a special privilege for Tom Kingston
Past-pupils John O'Sullivan David Griffin, and Shane Kingston of UCC GAA Club at the grave of Rev Fr Edwin Fitzgibbon in St Francis College, Rochestown. Picture: Larry Cummins

WHEN it comes to winning the Fitzgibbon Cup, UCC hurlers, through the ages, would have to be considered master craftsmen.

After all, the Western Road college has won the very prestigious trophy on 42 different occasions, putting them well ahead of the rest of the field. They recently paid a visit to the grave of Fr Edwin Fitzgibbon, in St Francis College, Rochestown, with the prestigious trophy named in his memory.

Their victories have been a mixture of spectacular performances on the final day, having to dig deep on other occasions, getting the rub of the green at times and exhibiting an inner belief and character that others have not been able to match.

When the competition gets up and running again next season they’ll be bidding for three-in-a-row of titles.

Just a short few weeks ago, IT Carlow provided the opposition in the final and for a long time it looked like they might get their hands on the old silverware for the first time.

Past-pupils John O'Sullivan David Griffin, and Shane Kingston with St Francis senior team hurling coach Paul O'Reilly, Deputy Principal Liam Ó Murchú, principal Marie Ring, teacher and hurling coach Alan Cadogan, Br Silverter and Deputy Principal Pat Croake at the grave of Rev Fr Edwin Fitzgibbon. Picture: Larry Cummins
Past-pupils John O'Sullivan David Griffin, and Shane Kingston with St Francis senior team hurling coach Paul O'Reilly, Deputy Principal Liam Ó Murchú, principal Marie Ring, teacher and hurling coach Alan Cadogan, Br Silverter and Deputy Principal Pat Croake at the grave of Rev Fr Edwin Fitzgibbon. Picture: Larry Cummins

They were on top on the scoreboard, UCC had lost a key player and found themselves in a very precarious position.

But when the call came it was answered emphatically just as had been the case in their semi-final win over DCU when they secured victory with virtually the last puck of the game. It was another story of UCC knowing how to get over the line.

Team boss for the past two seasons, Tom Kingston had nothing but warm words of praise for their latest accomplishment when he spoke to The Echo.

Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

He has been an integral part of the UCC set-up since 2009 and takes great pride in his involvement.

“In 2009, Games Development Officer in the college, John Grainger asked me would I get involved, the late Paul O’Connor was the boss man at the time and, to be honest, I didn’t have to think twice about it.

UCC manager Tom Kingston. Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon
UCC manager Tom Kingston. Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

“Previously, I had been with the Freshers and the camogie back in the 90s and I have been with the Fitzgibbon lads ever since.

“For me, it’s a magnificent competition, up there with the best and as I have often told the lads, when you reach adult level of hurling there’s only three medals that matter, an All-Ireland with your county, a county with your own club or a Fitzgibbon with your chosen college.

“The Fitzgibbon is one of the oldest competitions, the players themselves love playing in it and here in UCC it means a hell of a lot. I think that was shown last season and this one when our backs were really to the wall and the guys found a way to win the games.

“If they didn’t have the right mindset or didn’t care we would not have won those games."

Picture: Larry Cummins
Picture: Larry Cummins

On numerous occasions, both this year and last they had to go to the well, possessing that unique characteristic of not knowing when you are beaten coming to the forefront.

“We went up to Galway this year against NUIG in the first game, it was level with about a minute to go, a really tough game but they found a way to get a couple of points at the end to win it.

“That showed from the very first game that they wanted it. It was the same against DCU in atrocious conditions and you had that wonderful point at the death from Mark Coleman to win it. It was incredibly hard to get scores that day because of the elements and we were up against a class team that was full of inter-county players.

“Coleman’s sideline cut at the end was out of this world, a piece of magic really, he’s an incredible talent."

Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon
Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

Nothing really changed for the final showdown with IT Carlow, another searching test of their credentials.

“Yes, another very good team, very well coached by DJ Carey and they were really up for it. They had scored 14 or 15 goals in getting to the final and we knew we had to try and prevent that.

“But in the first five minutes they had two goals and led 2-2 to 0-1. But again our lads rose to it, but we lost Niall O’Leary and it became incredibly tough after that.

“We were three points down with 10 to go, had lost momentum, but it just drove them on again.

“We won by a point again and for me that just showed the character and will to win, the belief they have in each other, in themselves, they simply refuse to lose.

“It’s unique what they have, a special bond and whatever they get they deserve because they have earned it."

Kingston admitted that one of the hardest tasks facing the management was putting 15 names on paper.

“It was, we had inter-county players who were not on our starting 15, the standard is incredibly high, rising all the time and it’s similar in all the colleges.

Picture: Larry Cummins
Picture: Larry Cummins

“I just hope the Fitzgibbon will always be treated properly, that’s a concern of mine. Look at the Sigerson this year, played off in 17 days, that’s not fair. That’s not showing respect, dismissing it in 17 days is all wrong. I know it’s difficult with fixtures, but surely there must be a better way for a competition that is so prestigious.

“The effort that goes in from players and management deserve more than that and I hope the Fitzgibbon is never treated like that, that would be a shame.

“The Fitzgibbon, the Sigerson, the Harty Cup, these old competitions, when you are involved you die for them. They need to be respected.”

The UCC team boss had special words for praise for John Grainger who oversees all the GAA competitions in the college. He puts an awful lot of work into it, he’s got UCC in his heart, as a player in the past and now as the head person in the GAA up there.

“He has a fierce grá for it, he loves this Fitzgibbon and he’s doing a great job in there."

Br Silvester (whose father and brother won Fitzgibbon Cup medals), Liam Ó Murchú, Deputy Principal; John Grainger, GAA Development Officer, Dr Paddy Crowley, President UCC Hurling Club, Paul O’Reilly, teacher and hurling coach, past-pupils John O’Sullivan, David Griffin, and Shane Kingston, with teacher and hurling coach Alan Cadogan, Principal Marie Ring, Tom Kingston, manger of the Fitzgibbon Cup winning team, and Pat Croake, Deputy Principal at the grave of Rev Fr Edwin Fitzgibbon. Picture: Larry Cummins
Br Silvester (whose father and brother won Fitzgibbon Cup medals), Liam Ó Murchú, Deputy Principal; John Grainger, GAA Development Officer, Dr Paddy Crowley, President UCC Hurling Club, Paul O’Reilly, teacher and hurling coach, past-pupils John O’Sullivan, David Griffin, and Shane Kingston, with teacher and hurling coach Alan Cadogan, Principal Marie Ring, Tom Kingston, manger of the Fitzgibbon Cup winning team, and Pat Croake, Deputy Principal at the grave of Rev Fr Edwin Fitzgibbon. Picture: Larry Cummins

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