UCC proved too strong for hosts UCD in the Fitzgibbon Cup Group C decider at David Billings Park at Belfield on Thursday evening, where a fantastic defensive display; conceding just six points from play was the cornerstone behind this impressive victory.
Both Colleges had already banked narrow victories over Maynooth University in the group, so both had already guaranteed their places in the quarter-finals, but there was bagging rights as well as a favourable draw up for grabs in Dublin, meaning motivation was not lacking from either side.
UCD had begun brightly with their primary attacker Donal O’Shea registering the opening two scores from well-struck frees.
However, UCC, with the wind at their backs in the first half, got up and running through scores from Kilworth’s Eoin Carey and Ballygiblin’s Darragh Flynn.
UCC then went on a march, scoring four points on the trot around the quarter-hour mark through Carey, Robbie Cotter, Shane Barrett and Flynn to gain an advantage they would never look like relinquishing for the rest of the game.
Galway sharpshooter O’Shea was keeping his side in touch with his accurate free taking, but in Flynn, UCC had a marksman of equal quality, and his sixth point of the opening half allowed UCC to enjoy an 0-11 to 0-7 halftime lead.
Against the wind now, the expectation was that this would be a dogfight with the hosts storming back at them, but UCC outbattled UCD on the resumption, with St. Finbarr’s Conor Cahalane getting them up and running almost immediately.
Further scores from a roaming Barrett, Flynn again, and great efforts from Luke Elliott and Brian Hayes made sure that UCD were kept at arm's length.
UCD were almost completely reliant on O’Shea's frees and the impressive midfielder Dara Purcell for scores, with Purcell slotting three for the hosts. Meanwhile, UCC had eight different scorers in the night. Interestingly, all UCC’s scorers were Corkonians.
UCC held a six-point lead as the clock ticked past the 50-minute mark, and Darragh Flynn stretched that to seven with yet another well-struck-free from 45 yards out in the 53rd minute.
Donal O’Shea gave the home side a modicum of hope with a free of his own soon after, only for a superb point by the industrious midfielder Sean Daly, after great work in the build-up by Conor Cahalane, and another pinpoint Flynn free (with him ending the night with nine points), to stretch the lead out to eight and virtually kill off the tie.
UCD needed goals but could find no way through Niall O’Leary and Eoin Roche in the rock-solid full-back line. They had to resort to trying to beat Brion Saunderson from long range, but the Midleton stopper was not going to be denied his clean sheet, with him easily dealing with the effort, and UCD had to settle for a couple of consolation points at the death to ultimately come short by six.
As a result of this victory, UCC will now face ATU Galway in Thursday's Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final at 7pm.
D O’Shea 0-7 f, D Purcell 0-3, C O’Sullivan, E Guilfoyle, C Rogers 0-1 each.
D Flynn 0-9 (0-8 f, 0-1 65), S Barrett 0-3 (0-1 f), E Carey 0-2, L Elliott, S Daly, C Cahalane, R Cotter, B Hayes 0-1 each.
E Hogan (Dublin); I Ó hEithir (Dublin), M Walsh (Galway), D Crowe (Dublin); D O’Carroll (Kilkenny), C O Cathasaigh (Dublin), E Geraghty (Galway); D Purcell (Dublin), C Egan (Kilkenny); C Prendiville (Kilkenny), C O’Sullivan (Dublin), D O’Shea (Galway); C Foley (Dublin), J Duggan (Laois), L Murphy (Dublin).
D O’Donovan (Cork) for Geraghty (30+1, blood), M Twomey (Waterford) for O’Carroll, C Hoban (Kilkenny) for Egan (both h-t), C Rogers (Meath) for Duggan (42), O’Carroll for Crowe (46), L O’Brien (Waterford) for Foley (53).
B Saunderson (Midleton); J Boylan (Na Piarsaigh, Limerick), N O’Leary (Castlelyons), I Daly (Lismore, Waterford); C O’Brien (Newtownshandrum), E Roche (Bride Rovers), L Elliott (Sarsfields); D Flynn (Ballygiblin), S Daly (Randal Óg); E Carey (Kilworth), D Hogan (Sarsfields), C Cahalane (St Finbarr’s); S Barrett (Blarney), B Hayes (St Finbarr’s), R Cotter (Blackrock).
G Millerick (Fr O’Neills) for Daly (20), P Power (Blarney) for Cotter (42), C McCarthy (Sarsfields) for Boylan (45), R Fox (Limerick) for Hogan (55).
J Keenan (Wicklow).