UCC 1-21 Mary Immaculate College (Limerick) 0-19
UCC had to finish strongly to ensure they got off to a winning start in Group A of the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup on Wednesday afternoon.
Taking on Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, the defending champions – who claimed victory in 2019 and 2020, with no third-level GAA activity last year – led by just a point, 1-15 to 0-17, when the hosts’ Jason Gillane pointed a sideline cut in the 56th minute.
However, parity was elusive for Mary I, who are managed by Corkman Jamie Wall. Pádraig Power, introduced as a fourth-quarter sub for UCC, brought his influence to bear as he finished a good move involving Ciarán Barry, Shane Barrett and Mark Kehoe before Kehoe got his fourth of the day to open up a goal lead.
Though Devon Ryan had his tenth point, a free, to bring Mary I back to within two, Conor Cahalane landed a fine UCC score and then set up Power for a lovely flicked effort. When the Blarney man got his fourth in the space of 13 minutes after fellow All-Ireland U20 winner Dáire O’Leary set him up, it was 1-20 to 0-18.
Devon Ryan had another Mary I free as they persevered, but Cahalane had the final say in the 65th minute to ensure that UCC took the points.
It was a hard-earned victory for Tom Kingston’s team, who benefited from a Barrett goal 14 seconds into the second half after the sides had evenly shared 20 points in the first half, putting the visitors into a lead they would never lose.
A good opening had UCC 0-5 to 0-2 ahead, two Kehoe points allied to William Henn’s dead balls, but the period before and after the first water break saw Mary I take the upper hand, with centre-back Diarmuid Ryan impressing.
Devon Ryan had brought the deficit down to a point with a pair of frees before the break and then Diarmuid Ryan levelled before Cork’s Colin O’Brien put them in front as the ball came loose from a goalmouth ruck, though a green flag might have accrued.
Mary I couldn’t establish a lead of more than a point though, and, as some needle developed, UCC found their groove again as Henn put them 0-8 to 0-7 in front while Conor Boylan tested Mary I goalkeeper Eamon Foudy with a shot that the goalkeeper saved for a 65.
It was 0-10 to 0-8 as half-time approached but another Corkman, Philip Wall – brother of Jamie – pointed for Mary I following a good Diarmuid Ryan crossfield pass and Devon Ryan levelled in injury time.
The second half was barely on before UCC had struck for the game’s only goal. It was a great move, with Ronan Connolly, Henn and Cahalane linking to allow Barrett to finish well. Kehoe put them four in front and, while Mary I had a superb Gillane point in response, Connolly made it 1-12 to 0-11 on 41.
Any notions that UCC would use that as a platform to pull away were doused as Mary I’s Andrew Ormond nabbed a fine point following a turnover he had engineered himself, with Philip Wall and Diarmuid Ryan on target to leave a point in it, 1-12 to 0-14, with 16 minutes left.
The sides continued to trade blows, with Mary I staying in touch, but ultimately the introduction of Power illustrated UCC’s depth and gave them an extra attacking dimension, allowing them to push ahead, with Robert Downey prominent in the half-back line.
UCC’s next game is at home to UCD next Wednesday night.