Kingston and Downey will be vital for Cork after leading UCC all through the Fitzgibbon Cup

Kingston and Downey will be vital for Cork after leading UCC all through the Fitzgibbon Cup
Shane Kingston of UCC in action against IT Carlow players, from left, Seán Downey, Shane Reck, Jason Cleere, Richie Leahy, and Fergal Hayes during the Fitzgibbon Cup final. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

UCC retained the Fitzgibbon Cup this season, after surviving a major scare against IT Carlow in the final.

Here Éamonn Murphy looks at three talking points from their successful campaign.

1. REBEL LEADERS: Mark Coleman, with his slick sideline to defeat DCU, and Darragh Fitzgibbon, in the second half against DCU, delivered highlight-reel worthy points, but Shane Kingston and Robert Downey were the two most impressive Cork hurlers in the Skull and Crossbones.

Kingston was scoreless in the opener but fired 1-15 from play in the next four games, including blitzing CIT for 0-7. Turning 23 in September, this is going to be a critical year for the Douglas native to cement his status as a go-to forward for Cork alongside Patrick Horgan and Seamus Harnedy.

Downey was mainly deployed as a full-back for the College, where he's looked the part in Cork's opening two league games as well. For the majority of the Carlow contest he was in his customary wing-back role, where he hurled more ball than anyone.

He was briefly sent forward before Niall O'Leary's red card but returned to make a series of key plays in the closing stages of the final.

After making his senior debut in the Gaelic Grounds in 2019, Downey struggled a small bit for form but was the U20s' best performer in the All-Ireland final loss to Tipp and excelled for the Glen on their run to the county final.

Robert Downey. Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon
Robert Downey. Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

Still 20, his composure and sidestepping added to his height make a potent mix.

2. THE KERRY MESSI: Shane Conway is officially my favourite Kerryman. Tom Kingston referred to him as the 'Messi of hurling' and the Lixnaw club man is certainly a joy to watch.

Shane Conway of UCC. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Shane Conway of UCC. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

What's so appealing about the mercurial forward is the work-rate he marries with his skill and immaculate striking, which yielded 37 points in five matches. Whatever about Messi, he certainly has a touch of the Tony Kellys about him, adept at sniping delightful points but a brilliant ball-carrier too.

3. STRENGTH IN DEPTH: Joint-captain Eoghan Murphy, a resolute defender and former Cork minor and U21, was marked absent through injury, while highly-rated Barrs wing-man Billy Hennessy missed the final.

Brian Turnbull, the prodigious Douglas attacker, wasn't utilised and Rockies marquee forward Michael O'Halloran was a second-half sub.

There was a serious pool of talent in the UCC ranks.

Credit to manager Tom Kingston and his selectors Ian O'Connell, Ray Delaney, Cork U16 manager Noel Furlong and Leeside legend Niall McCarthy, for gelling the group together.

UCC actually didn't hurl as well as they could in either the semi-final or final, yet, as they had in the opener up in NUIG, they delivered when the game was on the line. The spirit and belief in the team was a reflection of the panel as a whole and the management.

That's why they collected a 42nd Fitzgibbon Cup and a fifth since 2009.

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