UCC left it until the 11th hour to save their Fitzgibbon Cup campaign as they overcame DCU in a dramatic extra-time semi-final last week at WIT. Chris O’Leary was the hero, netting an 82nd minute penalty to fire UCC to their first Fitzgibbon final appearance in 6 years. The Valley Rovers defender struck 1-5 in total as his late effort snuck under DCU goalkeeper Oisin Foley to snatch victory for Tom Kingston’s men. In the most intense game of the tournament so far, the penalty was given in controversial circumstances, and to the dismay of the Dublin side, they were denied a very late penalty of their own as their star player James Bergin, who’s personal tally ended with 10 points, saw his appeal waved away.
In contrast to their games so far this season, UCC started the slower of the sides and worked their way into the match, eventually taking a 1-8 to 10 points lead into halftime. The goal coming from Cork senior player Shane Kingston as he continued to show fantastic form. The sides were level on nine occasions throughout the game, with DCU utilizing their possession to assume early control. But Kingston, O’Leary and Shane Conway were all crucial in UCC turning the tide. In the second half, DCU led by 2 points with 13 minutes to play, before Conway stuck from a superb piece of solo play followed by a free. He then set up Kingston to take the lead with only 5 minutes remaining. DCU’s Bergin brought the game to extra-time with a last minute free.
When play resumed, Conway continued to keep the Leesiders in with a chance, but before long DCU had built up a 2 point lead once again. In added time, Eoghan O’Donnell ran over UCC substitute Sean Hayes to set up O’Leary’s moment of glory. UCC will be fancied by many to take the cup having shown consistent ability this year and boast a strong squad of several senior county players in Kingston, Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon. UCC will be facing Mary Immaculate College in the final following their 1-18 to 18 points victory in the other semi over UCC’s rivals in the group stages, NUIG. 2016 and 2017 champions Mary I are bidding to keep the local dreams alive of a 5th successive title in Limerick and will be relying heavily on star Aaron Gillane and Corkman Luke Meade. The final takes place on Saturday 23rd of February in WIT’s sports campus. Throw-in is at 14:45.