UCC thwarted Cork IT’s three-in-a-row ambitions with a decisive seven-point success in yesterday’s HE Freshers Hurling Championship final at the Mardyke.
In a repeat of last year’s thrilling decider, UCC reversed the result in a game they were in control of for long stages, only trailing once, in the first minute, when John Sheedy tapped over a free for CIT.
UCC’s success owed much to the sparkling displays of two of Cork’s brightest young hurling talents. Midfielder William Egan ran the game from his berth with a performance full of fight and energy, and adorned all his hard graft with two second-half points, the second being a long-range beauty in the 43rd minute.
Up front UCC had a game breaker in corner-forward Paul Haughney, whose contributions were crucial. He tore through for two opportunist first-half goals and struck a pair of exquisite points in the second half. Allied to impressive displays from Liam Butler, James Nagle and Daniel Roche, UCC established firm foundations for success.
The match as a spectacle served up drab fare which failed to match the cracking action served up 12 months ago. The first half was a low-scoring affair, UCC ahead 2-1 to 1-3 at the break but there were plenty of goalmouth incidents to command interest. In the fifth minute Haughney surged through to finish to the net cleverly despite a suspicion of over-carrying.
But CIT switched Alan Cuddihy, man-of-the-match for Ballyhale Shamrocks in last week’s All-Ireland Club decider, back to put the shackles on Haughney and he managed that effectively for a period. CIT drew level thanks to points from Sheedy and Simon O’Brien, yet Sheedy was denied a goal by the reflexes of UCC goalkeeper Darren McCarthy in the 14th minute. UCC responded in style by sweeping down field where Haughney stole in behind the defence to emphatically register his second goal.
Eoin O’Sullivan and Haughney went close for UCC, and Sheedy smashed a shot just past the post for CIT.
CIT’s challenge did get a massive fillip in the 20th minute when Ciarán Sheehan galloped in from the wing and shot clinically to the net. Despite a late James Cassin point for UCC, CIT remained in the hunt at the break, trailing by one.
However, after the interval UCC improved their performance with Butler, Nagle and Egan all starting to dominate in their sectors of the pitch, and centre-forward Michael Doyle skilfully landing points. When Egan fired over a brace of points in quick succession from distance, UCC were 2-6 to 1-4 to the good entering the final quarter.
CIT tried manfully to get back into contention. Substitute John Dineen took over free-taking duties and his accuracy along with a fine effort from play by midfielder Martin Gaffney helped bridge the gap. They came close to hitting the net again in the 56th minute but Sheehan’s piledriver from a 20-yard free was brilliantly blocked by Darren McCarthy.
Ultimately it was UCC who finished strongest with a classy effort from the wing by Haughney and an injury-time goal by substitute Willie Griffen confirming victory.
Scorers for UCC: P Haughney 2-2, W Griffen 1-0, M Doyle, J Cassin, W Egan 0-2 each.
Cork IT: C Sheehan 1-0, J Sheedy 0-3 (0-3f), J Dineen 0-2 (0-2f), S O’Brien, M Gaffney 0-1 each.
UCC: D McCarthy (Cork); B Cleary (Limerick), L Butler (Tipperary), P O’Sullivan (Cork); J Nagle (Cork), W Ryan (Cork), B Collins (Cork); W Egan (Cork), D Roche (Cork); S Harnedy (Cork), M Doyle (Tipperary), D Brosnan (Cork); E O’Sullivan (Cork), J Cassin (Kilkenny), P Haughney (Cork).
Subs: W Griffen (Limerick) for Harnedy (44), K Ryan (Clare) for Brosnan (51)
CORK IT: S Nyhan (Cork); R Cunningham (Waterford), P O’Rourke (Cork), R Virgo (Cork); A Cuddihy (Kilkenny), S Daniels (Waterford), C Brosnan (Cork); P O’Connor (Clare), M Gaffney (Kilkenny); C Sheehan (Cork); S Long (Cork), S O’Brien (Cork); N Kelly (Cork), J Sheedy (Tipperary), S O’Brien (Cork).
Subs: J Dineen (Cork) for Kelly (29), S Hayes (Kilkenny) for Cunningham (half-time), G Lehane (Cork) for Virgo (38), A Cronin (Cork) for O’Sullivan (48).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).
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