UCD progress to quarter-finals despite loss


Limerick I.T. 1-15  – UCD 0-15

UCD progressed to the quarter-finals but need to improve if they are to continue further, writes Micheál Halton

On a windy day in Belfield, UCD scraped into the quarter-finals of the Fitzgibbon Cup despite suffering a defeat against a talented Limerick IT side, who also advanced. UCD were level on points and score difference with Waterford IT but UCD moved on as they had scored two more points during their first two round robin matches.

Both sides started brightly; with Laois man Willie Hyland driving over the first score for Limerick. UCD responded well and Limerick keeper, Matthew Ryan, was required to divert the ball wide as it dropped into the square from a free. Noel McGrath, the 2009 Young Hurler of the year and 2010 All Ireland winner, was on hand to dispatch the resulting 65’ over the bar.

Limerick drove forward again and after a late foul on Donie Reale, the Limerick side were awarded a free. Full forward Bernard Gaffney stepped up to take the free but UCD goalkeeper Jamie Ryan saved. The ball wasn’t cleared, however, and inrushing Limerick midfielder Paudie O’Brien drove the loose ball into the net to give his side the lead.

UCD were unbowed by this setback and fired over three points in quick succession through McGrath, Walter Walsh and Keith Hogan. A Gaffney shot drew another fine save from Ryan with Gaffney converting the resulting 65’ himself.

John O’Loughlin and Sean Tobin traded points before the visitors began to assert some dominance around midfield. Stephen Lambert, Paudie O’Brien and Tobin extended Limerick’s lead to four points, with Ryan again coming to UCD’s rescue.

McGrath steadied the ship for UCD with a point from play, before Lambert added a brace to his tally. The hosts came away with nothing after a goalmouth scramble as they struggled to convert possession into scores. A pointed free from McGrath left UCD trailing on a score line of 1-8 to 0-7.

Points from Reale, Gaffney and Sean Collins extended Limerick’s lead, despite a wonderful sideline cut from McGrath. UCD looked like they would be heading for the exit door, but they stormed back into the game with McGrath, Walsh and Dublin star Liam Rushe coming to the fore. McGrath grabbed four points and Walsh tapped over once more, as the gap was reduced. A goal was disallowed for UCD as their opponent’s defence came under massive pressure.

However Limerick were quick to recover their composure and Sean Tobin earned a penalty, which Gaffney failed to convert as Ryan saved again. Gaffney recovered from this setback and scored his first point from play as his side extended their lead.

McGrath got another before Rushe scored his first of the match after a fine catch as UCD drew level. Unfortunately they were unable to continue their momentum as the visitors closed out the game with points from Gaffney, Tobin and Paul Browne to earn a meeting with NUIG in the next round.

UCD will advance to face a University of Limerick side which is sprinkled with some of the best known names in inter-county hurling including Cork’s Pa Cronin, Offaly’s Johnny Dooley and Waterford’s Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh.

The Students will enter the game as underdogs and will need to be more clinical with their scoring opportunities if they are to claim their first title in the competition since they defeated UCC in 2001.

McGrath was undoubtedly UCD’s star man and his performance will again be pivotal against UL, with his side also looking to the likes of Liam Rushe and Walter Walsh to notch up good tallies. UCD’s defence dealt well with Limerick IT’s attack at times but they will need to be on top of their game to cope with the duo of Dooley and Cronin. The hunger that UCD showed in fighting back from six points down bodes well for the team and all of their resilience will be needed against a free scoring UL side.

The Fitzgibbon Cup has been running since 1912 and the Students, with 30 wins, lie second on the roll of honour behind UCC. UCD were the inaugural winners of the cup in 1912 after defeating UCG and UCC. Since that time, the competition has expanded considerably to include a host of colleges from around the country. This year’s competition had a total of 12 teams participating, with the teams divided into four groups of three with the top two teams from each group advancing to the quarter-finals. Waterford IT will host both the semi-finals and final.

The Students will be hoping they can emulate the college’s basketball team by winning a national cup this year. Time will tell whether UCD are a championship-winning side, but if they are to continue their progress in the competition, they will need to put this loss behind them and put in a solid performance against a tough UL side in a crucial quarter-final encounter.

LIT — M Ryan; E Glynn, C Cowan, C Cooney; P Donnellan, J McInerney, J O’Keeffe; P Browne(0-1), P O’Brien (1-1); S Collins(0-1), W Hyland (0-1), D Reale (0-1); S Lambert (0-3), B Gaffney (0-4,3f), S Tobin (0-3).

UCD— J Ryan; J Doyle, S Cummins, O Gough; N Prendergast, E O’Shea, S Norton; C MacGiolla Bhride, D Fox; J O’Loughlin (0-1), L Rushe (0-1), D O’Connor; N McGrath (0-10,6f,1 s-l,1 65’), K Hogan (0-1), W Walsh (0-2). Subs: C Allis for D O’Connor (41).