UCC hurlers are one win away from returning to the Fitzgibbon Cup final

UCC hurlers are one win away from returning to the Fitzgibbon Cup final
UCC's Mark Kehoe racing clear of UCD's Ian O'Shea in the Fitzgibbon Cup at the Mardyke. Picture: Denis Minihane.

SATURDAY:

Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final: DCU v UCC, 4pm.

A CLASH of the heavyweights would probably be the most apt description that one would give to this eagerly awaited contest in DCU.

DCU are on the trail of what UCC achieved last season, the big double of the Sigerson and the Fitzgibbon.

The Sigerson is safely tucked away in the Dublin college and the hurlers will be all out to take the Fitzgibbon trophy away from UCC.

On the other hand, UCC are determined to hold on to the trophy that they have taken possession of 38 times already.

This has all the ingredients of being a cracking encounter, both sides rich with intercounty talent all over the field.

And it’s a similar story with the other semi-final, Mary I against Carlow IT.

For UCC, in their bid to retain the title, it’s been so far, so good with wins over NUIG, Cork IT and UCD in the quarter-final.

UCC GAA Development Officer John Grainger, believes, however, that they face a big task in the DCU campus. “Look, in this competition there are no easy games and now that we are down to the last four, any of the four are well capable of winning it.

“We played DCU in the semi-final last season and we just got past them with a last-gasp penalty goal from Chris O’Leary and that was after extra-time. They had a great win over WIT in the quarter-final and if you look down through their team there is talent in every line.

“But we are happy with the way things have gone for ourselves, the players are very focused now and the fact there’s no inter-county hurling until next Sunday week, the players have been able to get in some collective training.

“We trained on Tuesday night and on Thursday night so it’s all systems go now for DCU,” he told the Echo.

DCU defeated UL earlier in the campaign and showed plenty of resolve in getting past the challenge of WIT last week. Their Kilkenny trio of John Donnelly, James Bergin and Jim Ryan excelled against the Waterford students while you have Dublin’s Donal Burke and Fergal Whitley going well too.

Add in the Wexford players, Damien Reck and Rory O’Connor and it provides a very solid base to the side.

A look at the UCC squad gives one an indication of the depth of their resources.

UCC's David Griffin and UCD's Eoin Foley going high for the ball in the Fitzgibbon Cup at the Mardyke. Picture: Denis Minihane.
UCC's David Griffin and UCD's Eoin Foley going high for the ball in the Fitzgibbon Cup at the Mardyke. Picture: Denis Minihane.

When you have players like Michael O’Halloran coming in for Mark Kehoe and Brian Turnbull replacing Shane Kingston and others like Paddy Caddell and Bill Sheehan coming on as well, what does it say?

There is hardly a weak link in this UCC team from goalkeeper Shane Hurley out.

Robert Downey, who impressed for Cork against Tipperary at number three, and Niall O’Leary will anchor the defence while Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon, outstanding against Tipperary after his introduction, will form the midfield partnership.

Robbie O’Flynn’s confidence will be high after his outing with Cork as will Mark Kehoe’s be after his 0-4 for Tipperary.

Shane Kingston will, obviously, be a key figure as will Shane Conway from Kerry.

There is so much to be enthusiastic about regarding this UCC team but it will be all on the day, according to Grainger.

“There’s so much quality on all the four teams still left in the Fitzgibbon. Obviously, we want to win it again and we place great emphasis on this cup in the college.

“The management team led by Tom Kingston have a difficult job in putting down the first 15 names but that’s the way they want it.

“It’s a great competition and, hopefully, we can still be in it after tomorrow.”

It’s certainly not going to be easy in separating these two and having home advantage is certainly a plus for the Dublin students.

However, given the history and tradition of UCC in this competition and their depth of resources it’s very hard to oppose them.

They appear to have the greater options in attack and the personnel to come in if the need arises.

Expect a thriller here with UCC doing the business again to reach another final.

Verdict: UCC.

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