By Brendan Larkin
CHAMPIONS Limerick IT are yet to decide whether Eoin Kelly plays in today’s Datapac Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final against UCC.
Last year’s winning captain damaged his hamstring in the win over GMIT last week and the Tipperary star will be given every opportunity to be passed fit.
This will be a searching test for the champions. GMIT offered little resistance in the first round, LIT winning 2-15 to 0-5 with Niall Healy, Mossie O’Brien and Shane McGrath their key men.
UCC, in their first outing, have their own injury worries, most notably Dara McSweeney. The Blarney man damaged a finger in a recent challenge match and is rated as doubtful. The students boast a very experienced team which includes inter-county players Tom Kenny, Shane O’Neill, Kevin Hartnett, Ronan Conway and Kilkenny’s John Tennyson and Michael Rice.
UCC host the finals weekend and with a strong tradition behind them, the Cork students will make a bold bid to topple the reigning champions.
Cork IT have no injury worries ahead of their game with Waterford IT in Ballygunner’s pitch in Waterford. This is a repeat of the 2003 final which was won by WIT and the visitors will relish the chance of revenge.
Their challenge will be led by county seniors John Gardiner and Martin Coleman along with Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny), Maurice O’Sullivan and Stephen O’Sullivan both of whom have played at underage level for Cork.
Like their university colleagues, this is CIT’s first outing in the Fitzgibbon and while they have prepared well with a series of good quality challenge games, they are up against a side which failed narrowly to Limerick in the Waterford Crystal tournament final.
WIT had three games in that tournament, which will be very beneficial.
Their team is backed by well known inter-county players Brian Dowling (Kilkenny), Hugh Moloney (Tipperary), Keith Rossiter, Rory Jacob (Wexford) and a trio of Waterford players Kevin Moran, Michael Walsh and Liam Lawlor.
The Cork IT students who already have a league victory over WIT, will have to be at their very best to get the verdict on this occasion.
Still smarting from their football defeat, UCD travel to UL looking for some compensation but are up against a side that will include Offaly star Brian Carroll, Pat Donnellan (Clare), Tadhg Healy, Barry Coleman (Cork), and Limerick’s Paul McNamara, Ray Hayes and Andrew O’Connell.
UCD’s cause isn’t helped by the loss of Tipp senior Pa Morrissey, who broke a knee in a recent club game while two of his inter-county colleagues, Paul Ormonde and Diarmuid Fitzgerald, are struggling with injury.
Despite their problems, UCD will field a strong team that will include Offaly senior Brendan Murphy, Brian Barry (Kilkenny), David Hayes (Galway), Cork’s Mick Fitzgerald and Andy Smith, who will be involved in the All-Ireland club hurling final with Portumna next month
UL were pushed all the way in their opening round by the trainee teachers at St Pats, but it’s a game that should give them the edge over the Dublin side.
Dublin Institute of Technology face a mammoth task in their quarter-final tie against NUI Galway in Pearse Stadium this afternoon, but following a surprise and deserved win over Garda College in round one, won’t be any pushover.
DIT have won promotion to Division One and were narrowly beaten by Carlow. Coupled with the victory over the guards, they’ll be keen to continue their good run of form.
John Walsh and Brendan McEvoy, seniors with Laois, Seamus Wallace (Meath) and Joe Clarke (Christy Ring Cup medal winner with Westmeath in 2005) will spearhead their challenge, but it’s likely to come up short.