ONE of the bright notes to 2022 is the return of the Sigerson Cup following a year’s absence due to Covid-19.
And what better way to start the competition than the derby between MTU (Cork Campus), at home, and UCC in round one tonight at 7pm.
Round two, next week, features games between first-round winners and there’s a back-door for losers, too.
Interestingly, the draw has pitted both MTU campuses, Cork and Kerry, UCC, and UCD together. MTU Kerry host UCD, who top the roll of honour with 34 titles, this afternoon, and the result will have a direct bearing on next week’s action.
Not only will the respective winners clash in the knock-out phase, but so too will the losers with a chance of both newly created MTUs colliding for a place in round 3. UCC are second on the list of winners, with 23 titles, the most recent coming in 2019, under Cian Kiely’s captaincy, while DCU are the defending champions.
CIT won their lone Sigerson in 2009, under the management of Keith Ricken and with Paul O’Flynn as skipper.
MTU Kerry began life as Tralee RTC, capturing the 1987 title, before evolving into IT Tralee, who were champions in 1999.
UCC are captained by Dingle’s Conor Geaney, whose brothers Dylan and Niall are also in the panel, and there are a number of others who played with Cork in the McGrath Cup last weekend.
They include Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers), Colm O’Callaghan (Éire Óg), Diarmuid Phelan (Aghada), while Mallow’s Shane Merritt was selected to start, but didn’t line out.
There are links to the St Finbarr’s-Austin Stacks Munster club football final in Thurles on Sunday, with Cillian Myers-Murray and Brian Hayes representing the ’Barr’s and a trio from the Tralee club.
Cork senior Brian Hartnett (Douglas), along with his brother Niall, who played U20 last season, together with Éire Óg’s Jack Murphy, are other connections to Cork’s 2019 All-Ireland U20 success.
The usual strong Kerry links to the College extend to inter-county midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor, whose club Na Gaeil are in Munster club final action against Corofin, from Clare, in the intermediate decider in Mallow on Sunday.
Tipperary’s Sean O’Connor impressed, when scoring 1-7 in the county’s McGrath Cup win over Limerick at the weekend.
“The first thing to be said is that it’s great to have the Sigerson, after missing out last year due to Covid,” said GAA officer John Grainger. “Billy Morgan is in charge again this season and the lads have prepared well, playing a number of challenge games.”
MTU, who have joint-captains in Damien Gore (Kilmacabea) and Brian Hodnett (Carbery Rangers), were well represented with Cork in the McGrath Cup.
Gore was joined by defenders Paul Ring (Aghabullogue) and Rory Maguire (Castlehaven), and goal-scorer Daniel O’Connell (Kanturk) in attack, with Macroom’s Cillian O’Donovan and Newcestown’s David Buckley also getting game time.
Éire Óg’s John Cooper is another important element in their side, which also has Gavin O’Brien from Kerry county finalists, Kerins O Rahilly’s, as well as Adam Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers).
MTU are managed by Pat Spratt, who praised the players’ commitment.
“Whether it was Christmas or new year, anything we’ve asked of the players, they’ve responded enthusiastically,” he said.
MTU also have the benefit of a league win over College, the first in a decade, though both fielded below full-strength.
The Bishopstown college reached the quarter-finals of the league, where they lost to NUIG, who reached the final, going down to DCU. The competition kicked off yesterday with three games, IT Carlow against Letterkenny IT, Maynooth University against DCU Dochas Éireann, and UL against IT Sligo.
The Limerick University are regarded as strong contenders, featuring Kerry star David Clifford, Cork’s Sean Powter, and a clutch of Mayo players and won comfortably in their opener.
There are three other games scheduled for today, with MTU’s Kerry Campus at home to UCD at 2.30, TU Dublin City meeting St Mary’s University, and NUIG taking on Ulster University.