AWESOME, stupendous, magnificent, superb, enthralling.
Roll all those superlatives into one and you still won’t come up with an adjective good enough to describe Saturday’s final of the Fitzgibbon Cup.
I’ve not seen anything to equal this final. It had everything and even half an hour after the final whistle, there was a buzz around the ground.
Little wonder then that GAA President Nickey Brennan, who made the presentation, lauded both teams for the game they served up.
“There are games in your life you’ll always remember. This is definitely one of those. It was one of the great hurling occasions and, thankfully, it went out live on TV because people couldn’t appreciate it unless they saw it,” he said.
“We had skill, toughness but fairness and it was great to see the stars of today and undoubtedly some of the stars of tomorrow turn in a match of that quality.
“You could talk about it all night, I’m just so delighted to have been here to witness a truly wonderful game of hurling, and it proved, if proof was needed, that hurling is the greatest game in the world.
“It also goes to show the importance that the GAA has in third level institutions. There is no doubt about it, there is no sport in third level delivering so much excitement as the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson cups.”
Joe Canning did everything to get LIT to the final and played the proverbial blinder in doing so. On Saturday he surpassed himself with another wonderful display. He finished the game’s top scorer with 1-16, four of those points coming from sideline cuts from over 50 metres out.
But this final wasn’t all about the Portumna man who deservedly won the man-of-the-match award. WIT goalkeeper Adrian Power brought off two of the greatest saves imaginable to deny LIT goals that would surely have won them the title.
With LIT a point to the good in the first half of the second period of extra time, Canning set up Blaine Earley five metres out for what looked to be a certain goal, but Power incredibly diverted the shot out for a 65.
The other chance came in the second half of the second period of extra time when again Canning set up Earley for an even easier goal chance. This time Power came off his line to smother the shot, but, more importantly, the sliothar was swept downfield and the magnificent Eoin Reid drilled it to the LIT net for the match-winning score.
Reid will remember this Fitzgibbon Cup season for the rest of his career. Twice he saved his side’s bacon with equalising points; the first to send the game into extra time and the second to force the second period of extra time.
Joe Canning looked to have given his side victory when he cut his fourth line ball over the bar in injury time in normal time. It was a point worthy of winning any match, but on the puck out Eoin Reid tied the game with the equalising score.
The game ebbed and flowed in the 20 minutes of extra time but there was no separating the teams, and another 10-minute period of extra time was needed and in that spell, Adrian Power broke LIT hearts with those two wonder saves and Eoin Reid’s goal was the deciding factor.
WIT full-back John Dalton was majestic and Kilkenny coach Brian Cody has another gem coming through. Waterford coach Justin McCarthy will be delighted with the display of captain Kevin Moran who struggled to find words to describe how he felt at the whistle: “If I achieve nothing else in hurling, I’ll never forget this. It’s the greatest day of my career. I’m so proud of the lads, our coach Colm Bonnar and his backroom team,” he said.
Ray McLoughney, scorer of 12 points, Eoin Reid with 1-5, his brother TJ with three points and Fintan O’Leary with two points, all contributed handsomely to a magnificent victory.
LIT lost nothing in defeat. They were worthy champions and for long periods it looked as if they would retain their title.
Apart from Canning, Michael Walsh from Kildorrery in North Cork gave a wonderful display at corner back; Shane Maher at centre-back, Maurice O’Brien at wing back were equally as good.
Wayne McNamara must have come very close to winning the man-of-the-match award. He may not be the most skilful of hurlers, but makes up for that with sheet guts and determination.
For winning coach Bonnar it was a memorable end to his five years in charge, as he announced he would be stepping down.
“I’ve been involved with the team for five years now and we’ve won four titles in that time. You cannot top today’s game and it’s the ideal time to bow out,” he said.
For Gaelic Development Officer at CIT, Keith Ricken, and his organising committee the game was a fitting end to a wonderful weekend where the organisation was first class.
For the record, all three teams who won this year’s league titles, lost their championship finals to the same opposition.
Scorers for WIT: R. McLoughney 0-12 (0-9 frees, 0-2 65s); E. Reid 1-5; TJ Reid, K. Moran 0-3 each; S. O’Sullivan, F. O’Leary 0-2 each; G. Nolan, K. Graham 0-1 each.
Scorers for LIT: J. Canning 1-16 (1-10 frees, 0-4 side line cuts); W. Hyland 0-3; J. McInerney 0-2; N. Healy, C. Donnellan, W. McNamara 0-1 each.
WIT: S. Power (Waterford); K. Lanigan (Tipperary), J. Dalton (Kilkenny), C. Cooney (Clare); S. Fives (Waterford), P. Hartley (Kilkenny), K. Moran (Waterford); S. Lillis (Tipperary), P. Kelly (Clare); F. O’Leary (Cork), TJ Reid (Kilkenny), R. Good (Cork); R. McLoughney (Tipperary), E. Reid (Kilkenny), S. O’Sullivan (Waterford).
Subs: M. Gorman (Waterford), S. Kelly (Cork), G. Nolan (Kilkenny), K. Grehan (Kilkenny).
LIT: M. Ryan (Tipperary); M. Walsh (Cork), A. Byrne (Tipperary), E. Collins (Clare); G. O’Connell (do.), S. Maher (Tipperary), M. O’Brien (Limerick); J. Clancy (Clare), W. McNamara (Limerick); W. Hyland (Laois), C. Donnellan (Galway), J. McInerney (Clare); P. O’Brien (Limerick), J. Canning (Galway), N. Healy (do.).
Subs : B. Earley (Clare), A. Murphy (Kilkenny).
Referee: D. Kirwan (Cork).