A storming first-half helped UCC secure a home quarter-final in the Fitzgibbon Cup, following their seven-point victory over NUIG at the 4G pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday afternoon.
Unbeaten after three games, they topped Group A. The visitors, meanwhile, were dependant on the result of the other group tie between UCD and UL which was played last night in Belfield to determine who would acquire the runner-up spot.
UCC laid the foundation in the opening 30 minutes, after which they led 1-13 to 0-5. While the intensity dropped somewhat in the second half, they had enough done to take the points. Manager Tom Kingston is pleased with their progress to date.
“You couldn’t ask for anymore. I thought the lads played really well in the first half especially. They did everything we asked of them. We have played three games against three really good teams, but we know the next game is the one that matters.
“No matter who you play from here on, it is going to be really, really difficult. Every team is inter-county standard. We have a few injuries as well. David Lowney, Eoghan Murphy, and Darragh Fitzgibbon who has an All Ireland final with Charleville to get back for.”
UCC made the perfect start when Shane Kingston was set up by Evan Sheehan to drill home a goal after less than three minutes. The hosts moved 1-2 to 0-4 ahead. Much of the NUIG scoring in this campaign has come from the accuracy of Evan Niland and it was the same on this occasion as the Clarinbridge attacker and Darragh Burke responded – Niland scored nine points overall.
UCC would finish the half in devastating fashion and that would enable them take control of proceedings. They struck 11 points between the 12th and 27th minute without reply. Some classy scores from a host of players including county stars Shane Conway (Kerry), Mark Coleman (Cork) and Mark Kehoe (Tipperary). They led 1-13 to 0-5 at the interval.
Credit too to the UCC rear-guard who only conceded one point from play in the first half, their impressive defensive display was headed up by the outstanding Chris O’Leary.
Again, it was Niland who tried to haul NUIG back into contention with quickfire frees after the break. By the three-quarter stage, they trailed by 10 points, 1-16 to 0-9. And they were relieved that Sheehan’s attempt at goal didn’t come off for UCC.
The westerners didn’t relent outscoring their opponents six points to three in the fourth quarter, and UCC goalkeeper Jack Barry denied Shane Fletcher a goal opportunity. The home side were able to empty their bench, including the introduction of Robbie O’Flynn who has been on the injury list.
Scorers for UCC: S Conway (0-7, 0-5 frees), C O’Leary (0-2 frees) and M Kehoe (0-3 each), S Kingston (1-0), M Coleman and D Griffin (0-2 each), C Roche and E Sheehan (0-1 each).
NUIG: E Niland (0-9, 0-7 frees), M Lynch (0-2), S Loftus, D Burke (free), I Fox and C Sheedy (0-1 each).
UCC: J Barry (Castlelyons); K Dwyer (Killenaule, Tipperary), E Gunning (Na Piarsaigh), N O’Leary (Castlelyons); C O’Leary (Valley Rovers), P O’Loughlin (Kilmallock, Limerick), D Griffin (Carrigaline); M Coleman (Blarney), C Browne (James Stephens, Kilkenny); C Roche (Shamrocks, Waterford), S Kingston (Douglas), M O’Halloran (Blackrock); S Conway (Lixnaw, Kerry), M Kehoe (Kilsheelan Kilcash), E Sheehan (Na Piarsaigh).
Subs: R O’Flynn (Erin’s Own) for M O’Halloran (43), N Montgomery (Abbeyside, Waterford) for S Conway (49), S Hayes (Mallow) for S Kingston (55), D Walsh (Éire Óg Ennis, Clare) for P O’Loughlin (57), J O’Sullivan (Blackrock) for C Roche (59).
NUIG: (Galway unless stated) S Hennessy (Éire Óg Nenagh, Tipperary); A Greaney (Craughwell), J Fitzpatrick (Killimordaly), C Caulfield (Kilconieron); S Loftus (Turloughmore), P Hoban (Loughrea), D Connolly (Killimordaly); I Fox (Sarsfields), B Concannon (Killimordaly); D Burke (St Thomas), C Whelan (Kinvara), M Lynch (Kilnadeema Leitrim); C Sheedy (Roscrea, Tipperary), L Forde (Ardrahan), E Niland (Clarinbridge).
Subs: B Corry (Sixmilebridge, Clare) for D Burke (20), S Fletcher (Roscrea, Tipperary) for B Corry (44 inj), S Kennedy (Kilmaley, Clare) for L Forde (50), C Fahey (Padraig Pearse) for C Sheedy (60).
Referee: John Murphy (Limerick).