CIT 2-14 (AET)
UCC may have won on 40 different occasions in the previous 100 renewals of the Fitzgibbon Cup before last Saturday week’s final, yet it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying victory than the hard-fought, last-gasp triumph in the Mardyke over CIT. Not only was it a sweet success for the manner in which it came about, but also given the historic occasion of the centenary final, played out in the traditional home of UCC GAA and against their closest rivals, who were hell-bent on achieving their first Fitzgibbon title.
Indeed CIT were the better side for the 60 minutes and should’ve put the game to bed long before UCC struck for a pair of goals out of the blue to enter injury time 3 ahead. CIT deservedly brought the game to an extra period with a last puck of the game equaliser, however it was UCC’s strength in depth which saw them through as every substitute improved the side culminating with Seamus Corry’s 81st minute winner.
The game ended in dramatic fashion after a low scoring first 54 minutes which saw defences dominate and CIT lead by 11 points to 8 in bad conditions.
Stephen McDonnell excelled to hold Pauric Mahony scoreless from play, Eoin Keane vindicated his inclusion by shutting down Stephen Moylan, Lorcan McLoughlin dominated the centre and Stephen White gave a man-of-the-match performance on the wing. UCC’s forwards had little space to operate in but did manage 5 points in the first 17 minutes to lead by two with both sides failing to take advantage of a couple of half-chances for a goal and CIT hitting 5 wides.
UCC’s defence was also in good form with John O’Callaghan holding Paudie O’Sullivan scoreless, Dara Fives limiting Colin Fennelly’s influence and James Barry similarly impressive. However, CIT effectively used short puck-outs to avoid the inform William Egan’s wing and to send direct ball into the inside forwards. The Rossa Avenue students were finding more space in that area of the field after O’Callaghan and Stephen Maher picked up bookings and ended the half with four points in a row, including a pair in injury time from David Drake and John Cronin.
UCC levelled within 2 minutes of the restart with Mahony and Shane Bourke pointing however CIT reasserted their dominance to lead by 3 with 14 minutes remaining, the best of those scores coming when White soloed down the pitch, trading passes with Cronin, before shooting an inspirational score from the sideline. CIT were in complete control and should’ve had UCC out of sight but for poor wides from Jamie Coughlan and O’Sullivan and some excellent scrambling from the UCC defence.
UCC had scored only 1 point in 22 minutes when with 6 minutes remaining UCC lifted the siege, aided by a raft of subs that began to cause problems for the CIT defence. Hartnett recycled possession from a short Mahony free to Bourke who lobbed a ball into the danger area. CIT keeper Kevin Roche rose highest above Rob Walsh to bat the ball away, but only as far as Brian Hartnett who drove the ball into the net.
Then, with the game ticking into injury time, Dean Brosnan was on hand at the back post to bat the ball past Roche from a Moylan sideline cut.
It was a gutting blow for CIT who pushed desperately for parity. Darren McCarthy saved a close-range Paudie O’Sullivan free before a scrum ensued on the UCC 21-metre line. The ball was poked back into the goalmouth where Coughlan finished to the net after his initial shot hit the butt of the post.
CIT had been handed a lifeline, however considering how close UCC were to the brink with 10 minutes to go, extra-time seemed a fair outcome for both sides.
UCC, energised by their attacking changes, charged into a 2-13 to 1-12 lead at half-time in extra-time. Rob White was causing McDonnell all sorts of problems on the edge of the square, Moylan and Mahony added a brace of points apiece and Bourke robbed substitute Steven Daniels to set up an easy point for himself.
At this stage the game looked beyond CIT however they dug deep helped by Cork Senior footballer Aidan Walsh. A long ball in from captain McLoughlin was broken by Paudie O’Sullivan to Colm Casey who whipped it into the net less than a minute into the second period of extra-time.
CIT keeper Roche blocked a Moylan goal chance and Mahony missed a pair of placed balls as UCC began to stutter. Then with only 3 minutes to go Coughlan landed a huge equalising free.
UCC responded excellently as Bourke caught the ball from the puck-out and won a free which Mahony converted. Walsh scored a great equaliser from the sideline to level the game for the ninth time and a replay looked on the cards when the same man missed a chance to push CIT ahead.
However substitute Corry was the man in the right place at the right time as he took a pass from Moylan and swung over the winner. CIT still had time for one last assault on the UCC goal however the scrum which followed didn’t yield a leveller and Brian Gavin blew the final whistle to the delight of the UCC contingent.
UCC: D McCarthy; S Maher, J O’Callaghan, K Murphy; J Barry, D Fives, W Egan; Philip Mahony (0-1), B Murray; S Bourke (0-3), D McCormack, S Harnedy (0-1); S Moylan (0-2), Pauric Mahony (0-6f), B O’Sullivan (0-1).
Subs: S Corry (0-1) for Murray (half-time), R White for Harnedy (47), B Hartnett (1-0) for B O’Sullivan (47), D Brosnan (1-0) for McCormack (55), M Grace for Maher (75), B Murray for Brosnan (79).
Cork IT: K Roche; B Weathers, S McDonnell, E Keane; S White (0-1), L McLoughlin, P O’Connor; J Coughlan (1-4, 0-4f), M O’Sullivan (0-1); J Cronin (0-2), D Drake (0-2), P Gould (0-1); C Fennelly, P O’Sullivan, T Quaid (0-1f).
Subs: A Walsh (0-2) for Quaid (28), C Casey (1-0) for Gould (44), N Kelly for M O’Sullivan (55), S Daniels for Keane (65), P Gould for Drake (66), M O’Sullivan for Cronin (half-time, extra-time).
Semi-final results: CIT 0-17 vs LIT 1-9 and UCC 1-15 vs UL 0-15.