TRADITION and DNA are words frequently used in the sporting arena, teams with a history of success behind them finding a way to win when the odds appeared stacked against them, being able to come out on the right side of tight games.
Last Wednesday night UCC hurlers took possession of the Fitzgibbon Cup for the 42nd time, a gargantuan achievement by any set of standards.
Once upon a time the Fitzgibbon was confined to four colleges, UCC, UCD, UCG and Queens, it was still a difficult competition to win but not as it is now.
The number of participating teams has grown considerably, 16 colleges set off on the trail in early January so the competition is no longer the preserve of the few. UCC are the undisputed leaders in the Fitzgibbon Cup field and they retained the title in the DCU grounds on Thursday night against a IT Carlow, a college that more than justified its place in the final but a college that had no history in it.
For a long time it seemed that they were about to change all that and create their own, playing well and leading by six points into the second-half.
They had an extra man too after the red card that was issued to Niall O’Leary. It seemed likely that their time had come.
UCC had been down this road before, they had to nail a last-gasp penalty last year against DCU in the semi-final to emerge victorious, Chris O’Leary doing that bit of business and it was Mark Coleman in the semi-final this time with a wonder point from a sideline c against DCU as well.
Darragh Fitzgibbon posted a sublime point last Thursday point too in the game’s dying embers and it was that ability to search deep into the DNA of the college that got them through.
Something that GAA Development Officer in the College John Grainger was only too happy to concur with.
“This was my 10th Fitzgibbon Cup victory, five as a player and now five off the field. And I would say that this was one of our greatest Fitzgibbon wins," he told The Echo.
“In the past you might have had a handy enough win in the semi-final or in the final but on this occasion we had to show fierce character in both to win both by just a point.
“We were six points down against IT Carlow, a man down with Niall O’Leary off but the players answered the call when the need was at its greatest.
“Mark (Coleman) did it for us against DCU, Darragh Fitz and Shane Conway late on against Carlow and I must pay tribute too to goalkeeper Shane Hurley.
“They had that free right at the end and he came off his line, got his hurley to the ball and took the sting out of it and it went off Paddy O’Loughlin’s foot to go over the bar. That was crucial, so too was bringing Rob Downey out the field and he was phenomenal for us as well.
“Shane Kingston got some great points, everybody has contributed throughout this campaign.”
Grainger agreed that maybe their greater tradition got them over the line.
“Maybe, there’s a great history in the Fitzgibbon here in UCC, players know that and they want to make their own history. You saw the pure joy of them at the end, this is a great bunch of players, they are so tight-knit, they mix together and so on.
“This is what makes the Fitzgibbon Cup so special for me. You have inter-county stars and club players playing as, equals out there for that 60 minutes, trying to get the best out of themselves.”
And there were warm words of praise too for the men on the sideline.
“Yes, we had Tom Kingston, he’s so passionate about the Fitzgibbon, Niall Mac and Noelie Furlong from Carrigtwohill and Ian O’Connell and Ray Delaney.
“They put a lot into this team, got a lot out of them too and it was just a united team effort by everybody.
“The Fitzgibbon means so much in UCC, it’s history, its tradition, the great players who have worn the jersey.
“These lads have now become part of that tradition and they fully deserve what they have done.”
42 titles now won on the Western Road and counting.