by Sam Curtin
UCC left it late once more on Wednesday night as they left it late to overcome IT Carlow to claim their 40th title and their second on the bounce.
The champions, not for the first time this season, did things the hard way and got off to a nightmare start to the history chasing IT Carlow side managed by Kilkenny legend DJ Carey. Two goals inside the first ten minutes from Seamus Casey and Kilkenny star Liam Blanchfield gave the Carlow side a 2-2 to 0-2 lead.
However this fast start turned into a dire 15 minute period where they failed to score and allowed UCC to come back into the game. Cork midfielder Darragh Fitzgibbon was one of the few shining lights for Tom Kingston’s side in the first half and gradually took control of the game but scores where still hard to come by.
From the neutrals point of view, the most unfortunate sight was seeing goalscorer Blanchfield hobble off before half time after injuring his hamstring. His loss did not seem to have an effect on his team however as they traded points before the break. As a result it was Carlow IT who took a 2-05 to 0-07 lead at half time. History was beckoning.
That weight did not seem to be too heavy for DJ Carey’s side however, they were just as quick out of the blocks in the second half and extended their lead to six. The tide turned in favour of the champions on 40 minutes however. Shane Conway was raising white flags for fun (the Messi of hurling according to his manager) and outscored the Carlow men 0-11 to 0-04 for the rest of the game.
One moment of madness nearly decided the game however when Niall O’Leary saw red for a late swing on Carlow’s Chris Nolan. This didn’t deter the champions however and five points without reply gave them lead on 57 minutes
Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland did cause some panic for UCC with a late free on goal tipped just over the bar by opposite number Sean Hurley while a last gasp side line went high and wide. Despite being behind from the 2nd until the 57th minute, UCC showed resolve to somehow retain their crown on a scoreline of 2-11 to 0-18.
Spare some though for IT Carlow however who as a result, had lost both the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup deciders in the same year. Despite this, significant progress has been made and they will be a force next season.
As for UCC, this result typified their season. Beginning with a late victory over Cork to win the Canon O’ Brien Cup in early January and followed this up with a narrow, tense victory over NUIG. It was also the late late show in the semi final were the champions came from nowhere to snatch a one point win over DCU with Mark Coleman hitting over what is now a viral, sideline in the dying moments.
On speaking about their extraordinary season Darragh Fitzgibbon said “It was the ultimately comeback really, I don’t know they’re just a great bunch of lads. You saw the way they we held off DCU to win the semi final last Saturday as well. There was just great spirit there to pull through to the end.”
Fitzgibbon Cup winners during RAG Week, does it get much better than that?
Scorers for UCC: S Conway (0-9, 0-7 frees); S Kingston (0-4); D Fitzgibbon (0-2); M Kehoe and N Montgomery (both 0-1); P O’Loughlin (0-1 free).
Scorers for IT Carlow: S Casey (1-4, 0-4 frees); L Blanchfield (1-0); C Nolan (0-3); E Rowland (0-2 frees); J Kelly and S Bergin (0-1 each).
UCC: S Hurley (Cork); D Lowney (Cork), D Griffin (Cork), P Cadell (Tipperary); M Coleman (Cork), P O’Loughlin (Limerick), N O’Leary (Cork); K O’Dwyer (Tipperary), D Fitzgibbon (Cork); R O’Flynn (Cork), C Boylan (Limerick), S Conway (Kerry); R Downey (Cork), S Kingston (Cork), M Kehoe (Tipperary).
Subs: N Montgomery (Waterford) for O’Flynn (34); M Halloran (Cork) for Kehoe (37); B Sheehan (Kilkenny) for Boylan (53); A Casey (Waterford) for Fitzgibbon (61).