A strong display from CIT sees off UCD in Fitzgibbon Cup, writes Daniel Keenan
UCD hurlers squandered a half-time lead, eventually going down by five points to Cork Institute of Technology in their first round Group A Fitzgibbon Cup game in Belfield on Wednesday night. CIT came into the game off the back of a two-point win over the remaining Group A opponents, Waterford Institute of Technology.
CIT, finalists in last year’s Cork Club Championship Final, were always going to be tough opposition for the home team. Minus the services of 2011 GAA Young Hurler of the Year, Liam Rushe, UCD got the better of the early exchanges with a point from Andy Smith. CIT quickly responded through a Colin Fennelly goal, after some scrappy play from both sides, then a Tommy Quaid free.
The game lacked tempo early on, as injuries disrupted play, while the cold conditions made catching difficult. CIT looked intent on feeding full forward Paudie O’Sullivan but poor passing and resolute defending kept the Cork senior player quiet.
Tipperary star and UCD captain, Noel McGrath, kept the score board ticking over for the home side with a point, but CIT responded with two points to take a three-point lead. UCD relied heavily on McGrath’s free-taking ability to cut the deficit, and the 2009 All Star was as reliable as ever, scoring six points (five frees, one from play) in the first half alone.
CIT managed to maintain their lead for most of the half, with Jamie Coughlan scoring a free from well inside his own half and adding another soon afterwards. Goal chances were rare and UCD will rue Domhnall Fox’s miss in front of the goal. The Galway man was through one-on-one, late in the first half, but sent his shot over the bar for a score.
UCD went in at half time one point better off than their opposition, with Fox’s point levelling matters and a McGrath free giving UCD the lead, 0-8 to 1-4.
CIT came out of the blocks quickly in the second half to reclaim their lead through a David Drake and a Tommy Quaid free. Conor Allis levelled matters again for the home team with a monster shot, scoring from near the sideline just inside his own half.
The Cork team seemed to have more about them in the second half and scored four unanswered points, with Jason Condon scoring the pick of them after some impressive flicks from the visitors. O’Sullivan and Coughlan were also on target.
UCD fought back once again through two McGrath frees, but they were bookended by two points from CIT. With a four-point lead, CIT dropped a man back to sweep in front of the full back line, which worked to great effect, cutting off the UCD attack, who were eager for a goal.
The two teams then exchanged scores, the best of which was scored by Paudie O’Sullivan after an outstanding catch above Matt O’Hanlon, but neither could sustain any notable pressure on their opponents’ defence. With time running out, CIT had raced to a six-point lead; UCD needed a goal, but McGrath’s free in front of goal was deflected over the bar. Another McGrath free was cancelled out by Tommy Quaid just before full time, leaving the score 0-15 to 1-17.
UCD now travel to Waterford on Tuesday night knowing that they need a win over Waterford IT, who also lost to CIT, to progress further in the cup. Both teams have a proud tradition in the competition: WIT have won the Fitzgibbon Cup eight times, most recently in 2008, while the last of UCD’s thirty cup wins came in 2001.
This tradition was exemplified in the recent GAA Fitzgibbon Cup Team of the Century, with WIT getting two players on the team to UCD’s trio of Tommy Daly, Ted Carroll and Pat Henchy. As for the present team, UCD will know they can’t rely so heavily on Noel McGrath for the next round, and will look to build on this early setback.
Photography by Dave Nowak, Chief Photographer