UCC advanced to the final four of the Fitzgibbon Cup last Wednesday after seeing off the challenge of a battling UCD side at the Mardyke.
The Dubliners caused problems for UCC throughout and after a bright start to the second period, led by 3. However they relied heavily on the likes of Conor Allis, Noel McGrath, Liam Rushe and Walter Walsh and UCC were eventually able to get to grips with these big name players while at the other end posing too varied a threat for UCD to shut down. William Egan was outstanding in this regard, gaining a foothold against UCD’s big ball winners and setting up attacks which Shane Bourke, who totalled 1-6 from play, and Pauric Mahony (0-7) utilised to the maximum. Ultimately, the home side fired 1-10 in the final 25 minutes while UCD could only muster 3 points in reply.
UCD, despite losing, played some outstanding hurling to edge into the half-time lead, 2-8 to 0-13. Rushe, who was an injury doubt coming into the game, set the scene winning quick possession and setting up Walsh and McGrath for early points. Shane Bourke got his first two scores of the contest with Walsh replying at the other end with a fantastic catch from a puck out followed by a solo run and score. Griffin and Bourke edged UCC 7-5 ahead but Walsh was in commanding form and set up a James Gilligan point to reduce the gap to the minimum before he rattled the net 18 minutes in after excellent build up play from Allis and Rushe.
Bourke lofted over another duo of scores to level the first half shootout before Walsh set up yet another UCD score, for Daire Plunkett, with a high catch and lay off.
It was at this juncture that UCC should’ve goaled when Stephen Moylan found his path to goal wide open however Diarmuid Nash came out of nowhere to make a block just as Moylan was about to pull the trigger. However UCC still seemed on course to hold the half-time advantage after Bourke’s sixth point, an excellent pick up, turn and score at full pace, was followed over by Seamus Harnedy and Mahony’s efforts.
Yet in the final minute of the half, a rare stray free from McGrath fell short, Rushe caught it, wriggled free of John O’Callaghan and rocketed a shot to the back of the net.
UCC were rocked and UCD came out in the second half with renewed hunger with McGrath and Allis, from distance, stretching the lead to a goal. Everything seemed to be going UCD’s way; Walsh and Rushe were winning plenty of possession in UCC territory and one of UCC’s star forwards, Willie Griffin, was withdrawn after 35 minutes having been well held by Nash. However, the tide began to turn as Mahony was moved into full-forward while Bourke was still flying despite being picked up by Oisin Gough. At the other end UCC’s defence remained disciplined and led by Egan began to dominate both in the air and on the ground.
Mahony scored three points in a row to level and when Rushe scored an excellent point from the sideline it was the final time that UCD would lead. Dean Brosnan levelled straight from the puckout and Egan initiated the moves which saw UCC push 0-19 to 2-11 ahead.
UCD were tiring but still in contention until Bourke goaled 11 minutes from the end as he collected Mahony’s low ball and lashed it into the net from an acute angle. McGrath briefly cut the deficit to four but substitute Brian O’Sullivan, whose brother David came on for UCD, pointed twice as UCC withstood the best that UCD could throw at them in a fast, hard-hitting contest which bodes well for next weekend’s finals.
UCC: D McCarthy; S Maher, J O’Callaghan, K Murphy; J Barry, D Fives, W Egan; Philip Mahony, B Murray; S Harnedy (0-2), D McCormack (0-1), Pauric Mahony (0-7); S Moylan (0-1), S Bourke (1-6), W Griffin (0-3). Subs: B Hartnett for Griffin (38), D Brosnan (0-1) for McCormack (38), B O’Sullivan (0-2) for Harnedy (56), S Corry for Murray (58).
UCD: J Ryan; D Nash, M O’Hanlon, O Gough; C Allis (0-1), J Lyng, S Norton; J Gannon, N McGrath (0-5); J Gilligan (0-1), D Fox, G Sinnott (0-1); W Walsh (1-2), L Rushe (1-1), D Plunkett (0-1). Subs: K O’Loughlin for Plunkett (40), D O’Sullivan for Gannon (50), C Kenny (0-1) for Gilligan (56).