UCC got off to an encouraging start in their 2019 Fitzgibbon Cup and Sigerson Cup campaigns, with both teams registering wins in their respective opening games and securing quarter-final berths.
In the hurling, UCC have stormed into a commanding position in their group by registering 2 wins out of 2 with victories over UL and UCD. In the first game, UCC put on a fine display to subject the reigning champions UL to a home defeat by a score of 0-26 to 0-20, with Shane Conway putting up 9 points to get UCC over the line. There was a feeling of redemption for the Cork side, having lost heavily to UL at this venue in last years’ quarter-final match. UCC came out of the blocks quickest and throughout the 1st half, the sides were level 5 times, but UL were never in front. There was a significant decision midway through the 1st period, as the referee adjudged UL’s Barry Murphy to have struck his penalty effort from inside the 20-metre line, and consequently, a goal was ruled out and UCC carried a 2 point lead into half-time. The champions started the better side in the 2nd half as they took the lead for the only time at 0-13 to 0-12. The failure by the Limerick side to build momentum was punished as UCC sub Robbie O’Flynn came on to score 3 points as UCC outscored their opponents 0-9 to 0-3 down the home stretch. UL now face the daunting task of having to secure 2 away victories to progress from the so called ‘group of death’, at NUIG and UCD.
UCC continued to show good form by dispatching of UCD last week at Mardyke to book a place in the quarter final stages. Again there were scores to settle as UCC lost out to UCD during this fixture in last years’ competition, but never looked in danger of losing this tie. UCC were again quick to secure the lead and never looked back, holding a 5 point lead at half-time: 0-11 to 0-6. Into the 2nd half, UCC scored 2 crucial goals courtesy of Mark Kehoe and Neil Montgomery to put the result beyond the Dublin side, who fought valiantly to the end, scoring a goal themselves through a Brian Hogan penalty. In the end, UCC just had too much for the visitors as they ran home with a comfortable 11 point surplus 2-21 to 1-13. UCC are the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals and hope to book a quarter-final fixture at home as they play NUIG next.
Turning towards football and the Sigerson Cup, UCC romped home with a 36 point advantage on Athlone IT at Mardyke to advance straight into the quarter-finals. UCC were in total control all over the pitch as they commanded possession and were clinical in attack, scoring 3 first half goals, including a brace by Conor Horgan, and limiting the scoring opportunities of the Athlone side to head into the interval 3-16 to 1-1 to the good. One of UCC’s stars of the day was Paudie Clifford as he nabbed a hat-trick in an impressive display of strength and depth by the Leesiders. Athlone had goals from Mullinalaghta’s Rian Brady and a penalty rebound by Brian Berry, but UCC never took their foot off the gas and ran in a couple of extra scores in the final stages as the full time whistle blew at 7-25 to 2-4. Athlone earn a second chance in the competition by facing off against DIT. UCC will now face the winners of the game between UL and Carlow IT in their next game.
The signs suggest there is much to be excited about GAA-wise in Cork this year as both teams remain well alive in the fight to reclaim their respective titles. UCC are without a Fitzgibbon Cup win since 2013 while the Sigerson Cup has eluded their grasp since the last triumph in 2014.