UCC 0-18 IT Carlow 2-11
UCC are Fitzgibbon Cup champions for the 40th time after an epic battle with IT Carlow.
They retained the trophy in dramatic fashion at DCU after coming from three points down and despite losing Niall O'Leary to a red card in the 49th minute.
The winning score was a booming Shane Conway free, which was earned by Shane Kingston after a terrific turnover down the left flank. Kingston was immense, nailing four points from play, while Conway again did Kerry hurling proud with his skill and drive.
That free nudged the College 0-18 to 2-11 up in injury time, a minute after a Darragh Fitzgibbon wonder point had put them ahead for just the second time in an absorbing contest.
There still more excitement as a 65th minute Enda Rowland free was deflected over and Carlow earned a sideline which would have forced extra time had it not spun off wide.
For their commitment and composure, UCC just about deserved it. O'Leary's red card was harsh and referee James Owens did Tom Kingston's charges few favours overall.
Yet the College held their nerve and didn't give Carlow an inch in the ferocious closing stages.
Conway was the official Man of the Match but Robert Downey was outstanding in the second half, pulling down high deliveries and winning numerous rucks at wing-back. The Glen Rovers youngster is in a rich vein of form and his Cork comrades Fitzgibbon, Kingston and Mark Coleman were prominent in the last quarter too, with Limerick's Paddy O'Loughlin playing a captain's part.
Subs Neil Montgomery and Bill Sheehan made a mark, while keeper Shane Hurley recovered from being beaten for two early goals to sweep cleverly off his line from there.
“It's every emotion under the sun,” an emotional Tom Kingston told TG4 after. “Sheer elation, stress, worry, relief. Incredible. They're an incredible bunch of lads and everything they win they deserve. They work hard. I'm so proud of them.
“You can't buy it, you can't coach it. They've a huge will to win and they believe in themselves and each other. In fairness to Carlow, they were very, very unlucky. DJ Carey and Michael Dempsey have done great jobs. Tonight we got the breaks.
“Judging on Saturday and here our fellas showed what it means to win the Fitzgibbon Cup. They're a credit to themselves, a credit to their families and a credit to their college.”
Carlow IT plundered five goals when defeating Jamie Wall's Mary I in last weekend's semi-final. That should have ensured the College were on red alert, but instead, in the style of their manager DJ Carey, Carlow raised two green flags in the opening exchanges.
Seamus Casey, with his right boot, and Liam Blanchfield, after getting too much room along the end line, struck before UCC had any time to settle. The favourites simply couldn't match the work-rate and appetite of Carlow in the first quarter.
Tipp's Mark Kehoe and Shane Kingston were left isolated up top as the rest of the UCC forwards foraged deep but initially, they went lateral or short too often and were consequently hounded in possession.
Paddy O'Loughlin, Robert Downey and Niall O'Leary started to get a grip defensively, while Kerry dynamo Shane Conway started to process ball in between the 45s.
Slowly they got the scoreboard ticking, Kingston pilfering two beauties, Kehoe and Conway one each, and five minutes before the break it was 2-3 to 0-7. Carlow settled again and two scores put them back in the driving seat, followed by the first point of the second half.
For most of that period, it looked like they'd make history and claim the cup from UCC, who it turned out had the experience and class to survive.
Scorers for UCC: S Conway 0-9 (0-6 f), S Kingston 0-4, D Fitzgibbon 0-2, M Kehoe, P O'Louglin (f), N Montgomery 0-1 each.
IT Carlow: S Casey 1-4 (0-4 f), C Nolan 0-3, E Rowland 0-2 f, L Blanchfield, S Bergin, J Kelly 0-1 each.
UCC: S Hurley; K O’Dwyer, R Downey, D Lowney; P Cadell, P O’Loughlin, D Griffin; M Coleman, N O’Leary; R O’Flynn, S Conway, C Boylan; D Fitzgibbon, M Kehoe, S Kingston.
IT CARLOW: E Rowland; F Hayes, S Downey, S Reck; P Delaney, J Cleere, M Harney; R Leahy, L Scanlon; C Nolan, J Kelly, C Dunbar; R Higgins, L Blanchfield, S Casey.
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).