HOLDERS UCC ticked the first box in attempting to keep a grip on the Fitzgibbon for another year after finishing top of Group C.
They made it two wins from two with their 0-22 to 0-15 win over CIT at the Mardyke on Sunday and now await the identity of their quarter-final opponents.
“That was our target from day one and we’ll see what happens after this,” said manager Tom Kingston.
College meet the Group D runners-up at home on January 29-30 and they will be either GMIT or UCD who meet on Wednesday, with the Dublin students travelling.
“It was certainly a game of two halves. I thought we played really, really well in the first half,” Kingston added.
“We dominated. We hurled well. The attitude was right. We got good combinations.
“And everything was right in the first half, but it was totally the opposite in the second.
“But, all that credit is due to CIT, who had a different mind-set.
“They came at us, took us on and in fairness to them, CIT won the second-half (0-9 to 0-7) and we were lucky to have such a lead at half-time (0-15 to 0-6).
“We knew they would come at us and that’s how it panned out.
“It gave us that cushion, but they were better than us in the second half.”
Kieran Kingston, the manager’s nephew, was sensational in the first half, when he scored 0-6 of his seven-point haul, all from play.
Shane Conway chipped in with 0-5 and there was 0-2 apiece from Robbie O’Flynn and defender David Griffin.
“The upshot of it all is that we know we’ve an awful lot of work to do.
“Whether it was complacency or not, we just don’t know. It’s something you try and guard against.
“As I said to them ‘we’ve no right to complacency’. Sometimes it can happen and sometimes you can be too far ahead.
“The problem when you hurl that well is there’s only one way to go and that’s down.
“If you start losing momentum it’s hard to get it back, but you still have to credit the boys for coming back near the end and getting those few scores.
“It was a typical Fitzgibbon Cup game. The weather was gorgeous. It was a great day for hurling with a perfect pitch, no reason for not having a good game.”
College were able to introduce Robert Downey for the injured Eoghan Murphy before the game.
“He is out with a broken finger and we’re unsure whether he’ll be back for the quarter-final.”
Captain Paddy O’Loughlin from Kilmallock sat out the second-half, showing his ability with a superb long-range point.
“He’s been training a lot recently, but we were able to bring on Paddy Cadell, who’s a super player, so we have plenty of options.”
CIT now face a must-win game against NUIG at home on Thursday night at 7pm and Kingston believes they’ll give it a right good rattle.
“I’d give them a great chance. Galway are a good team, but CIT at home are a different proposition and they’ll put it up to anyone.
“And they’ll have the benefit of a good game. In fairness, I thought they hurled really well in the second half.”
Lisgoold’s Liam O’Shea top-scored with 0-9 while Michael Ryan chipped in with 0-2, but there’ll have to be a great return from the forwards as a whole.
CIT will be pleased with their second-half defensive show, restricting the champions to 0-7 with a unit containing keeper Ger Collins and Sean O’Leary-Hayes.
In other groups, DCU Dochas Éireann will expect to top section A, when they meet bottom-of-the-table Trinity College in Santry on Wednesday.
They have already defeated UL and Maynooth University to sit on four points, two more than the other pair, who will clash in Limerick on Thursday to determine who progresses as runners-up.
Waterford IT and Mary Immaculate College qualify from Group B, having won both their games.
They meet in Limerick on Thursday to decide who finishes on top.