Fitzgibbon Cup Group A
Mary Immaculate College v UCC
MICL Grounds, 2pm
Fully one hundred weeks since beating IT Carlow in the 2020 Fitzgibbon Cup final, UCC begin the defence of third-level hurling’s premier competition.
Winners in 2019 and 2020, Tom Kingston’s side are aiming for a third straight title, with the 2020-21 edition having been lost to Covid-19. They prepared for today’s visit to Limerick with the Canon O’Brien Cup game against Cork at the Mardyke last Friday night, losing by just two points.
There is a strong Cork contingent in the UCC squad, with senior stars Niall O’Leary, Robert Downey, Conor Cahalane and Shane Barrett giving the team good balance while county winner Tommy O’Connell is another strong option in defence.
Up front, Tipperary’s Mark Kehoe has been a shining light during his time studying on the Western Road while Limerick’s William Henn did well on dead-ball duty against Cork. Simon Kennefick nabbed 1-2 on Friday while Jack O’Connor and Pádraig Power are also on their squad list.
In a tricky group – UCD and NUI Galway are also present, meaning one of the top three institutions in the competition’s roll of honour will not be making the knockout stages – getting off to a winning start will be a huge advantage but UCC will know that nothing can be taken for granted against Jamie Wall’s Mary I.
Back in 2017, the Kilbrittain man guiding the teacher-training college to a second straight title, having been a selector under Eamonn Cregan the year before, and in 2019 they reached the final but lost out to a UCC team that were in sparkling form.
Mary I will be keen to make the most home advantage and they are not short of quality options to help them achieve that aim. Colin O’Brien of Liscarroll, winner of a 2020 All-Ireland U20 medal with Cork and part of the senior panel now, will be a key man in attack while Clare’s Diarmuid Ryan is another strong operator. Jason Gillane and Josh Considine both have All-Ireland medals as part of John Kiely’s squad and Darragh Lohan (Clare, nephew of county manager Brian) and Tipperary’s Devon Ryan ensure that they have a strong presence all over the pitch. Ultimately, squad depth may be what gets UCC over the line.
In the other game in the group, UCD host NUIG at Belfield at 7.45pm.