UCC have pulled off the biggest shock to date in this year’s Cork Senior Hurling Championship with a thrilling victory over all-conquering Imokilly. Late points from substitutes Padraig Power and Daithi Heffernan secured a fantastic victory for the College, which sees them progress to the latter stages of the county championship.
UCC came into the game following a convincing 3-22 to 2-13 win over Duhallow last Tuesday night with Owen McCarthy, Shane Conway and David Griffin all starring in a powerful team performance. Despite losing the likes of Mark Kehoe, Shane Kingston and Darragh Fitzgibbon, the back to back Fitzgibbon cup winners have retained the services of key performers like Griffin and Conway. However, younger stars have come through the ranks such as Carrigaline’s Brian Kelleher, who has been in some excellent form for his club over the past 15 months.
The College started in imperious form and looked to blow away their opponents in the opening minutes of the game. Kerry’s Shane Conway and Waterford’s Neil Montgomery grabbed two points each, allowing UCC to race into a four-point lead with just three minutes on the clock. Imokilly stopped the bleed with a score from Lisgoold’s Liam O’Shea and this began his side’s comeback as points from Barry Lawton and Aghada’s Will Leahy quickly followed.
However, UCC were in a serious flow and dominated the next 10 minutes of the contest. An Owen McCarthy goal, which arrowed straight into the top corner of the net, accompanied points from Montgomery and Brian Verling, while McCarthy also saw his effort from play result in the raising of the umpire’s white flag. A free and a superb point from play by Conway saw UCC take a 1-9 to 0-3 lead with just 13 minutes gone.
Aghada rallied with a trio of scores from Will Leahy but UCC remained on top for the remainder of the second half with sub Shane Barret, Carrigaline’s Brian Kelleher and Conway all adding to the UCC scoreline, giving them a half-time lead of 1-13 to 0-9.
The second half began in a rather cagey affair as both teams traded points. Verling and Barrett grabbed points for UCC while Conway added a brace to his already sizeable tally. However, Imokilly well and truly turned the screw from 40 minutes on as they scored six points in a row to close the gap between the sides to just two points. It looked like the truncated squad and the intense run of games were beginning to affect the college as they desperately sought the brief relief of the second period’s water break.
The momentary stoppage in play seemed to allow UCC to catch their breath and they managed to steady a somewhat sinking ship. They introduced some fresh legs with Mark O’Leary and Daithí Heffernan coming into the fray. Although Barry Lawton brought Imokilly to within a point of levelling the game, UCC showed great composure in the critical moments of the game.
With 57 minutes on the clock, Cork senior hurler Mark Coleman arrowed a beautiful sideline from the 45-metre line to give the College their first score since the 38th minute of the game. Imokilly would not go away however and they reduced the deficit to just a solitary point once again.
The final five minutes of play were deserving of a full crowd in Páirc Uí Rinn and possibly even Croke Park. Shane Barrett looked to have sealed the win for UCC when he scored a wonderful solo effort after running through the heart of the midfield to put his side two points ahead. However with the game now into one minute of stoppage time, Imokilly took the lead for the first time in the game. Dylan Desmond looked to have pulled off a brilliant save to his left-hand side only for Will Leahy to unleash an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net. You’d have thought the goal would have been a killer blow to the confidence of UCC, however they somehow managed to find some extra gas in the fuel reserves and manage an incredible fightback. Carrigaline’s Brian Kelleher shouldered the responsibility of bravely putting over the equalising point near the right-side touchline from 45 metres out. Then it was Montgomery and the substitutes who stole the show for the College, to seal a thrilling win over the defending county champions Imokilly. The impressive Neil Montgomery restored UCC’s deserved lead before Padraig Power found time and space to put UCC two points ahead with just 40 seconds left on the clock. With just seconds to play before the final whistle, Daithí Heffernan put the icing on the cake when he pointed from a distance to put UCC three points up, securing the victory.
It was an incredibly skilful contest from start to finish with some high quality scoring throughout the contest. UCC have become the team to prevent Imokilly from attempting to secure a four-in-a-row in the Cork Senior Hurling Championship. The college marches on to the quarter-final stage of the competition and will be a match for any team left in the running.
UCC Team: Dylan Desmond (Eire Óg); Eoghan Clifford (Cloughduv), David Lowney (Clonakilty), David Griffin (Carrigaline); Mark Coleman (Blarney), Paddy O’Loughlin (Kilmallock), James Keating (Kildorrey); Keith O’Leary (Castlelyons), Karl Walsh (Ballincollig); Neil Montgomery (Abbeyside), Shane Conway (Lixnaw), Éanna Desmond (Carrigaline); Brian Kelleher (Carrigaline), Brian Verling (Cloughduv) and Owen McCarthy (Inniscarra).
UCC Subs: Shane Barrett for O’Leary (16min), Padraig Power for Desmond (HT), Mark O’Leary for Lowney (48) and Daithi Heffernan for Verling (51).
UCC Scores: Conway 0-7 (3 frees, 1 65’), Owen McCarthy 1-1, Montgomery Barret and Kelleher 0-3 each, Verling 0-2, Power, Heffernan and Coleman (65) 0-1 each.