Mary I 1-30 UL 3-22
By Eoghan Cormican
Fifty-six scores, two periods of extra-time and a sideline scuffle all rolled into ninety minutes of gripping hurling; the current GAA season may not even be two months old but already we have a strong contender for game of the year.
At the end of the second period of extra-time, it was Mary I who stood triumphant; the Limerick teacher-training college celebrating a first Fitzgibbon Cup crown just four years after joining the top table.
Mary Immaculate College Limerick beat UL in the Independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup Final by 2 points after extra time! pic.twitter.com/D0coYENMl1— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) February 27, 2016
Level at 3-21 to 1-27 at the end of the first period of extra-time, the announcement came that there would be a further two five-minute periods. Cian Lynch and Tommy Heffernan swapped points, the UL sub finishing with six from play, to level the game a for a 19th time at the quick change of ends.
UL, though, would fail to add to their tally in the closing five minutes as a Darragh O’Donovan (free) and a superb Cian Lynch strike off the hurl propelled Eamonn Cregan’s side to glory. Not before further drama, mind you. Needing a goal to keep alive dreams of back-to-back titles, UL
bombarded the opposition goal with a series of late deliveries.
And as the clock ticked into the one minute of stoppages allocated by referee James Owens, Tom Morrissey released a goal-bound effort that was stopped by John Meagher a metre from the line.
UL, to be fair, could easily have relinquished their crown at the end of the first period of normal time. Trailing by 1-27 to 3-20, referee James Owens harshly penalised Ronan Maher for an alleged chop on Cathal McInerney. John McGrath slotted the resulting free to force the second period of extra-time.
It was the second time the Limerick University had snatched an equalising point to wrestle victory from Mary I, Tommy Heffernan splitting the posts two minutes into time added on at the end of the second-half.
The teams returned to the dressing-rooms at half-time deadlocked at 1-6 to 0-9, the two sides level on six occasions in a hugely entertaining opening period. Tom Morrissey, set-up by John McGrath, goaled inside a minute and a half for the reigning champions, but Mary I responded with four on the bounce through Cian Lynch, Sean Linnane and two Declan Hannon frees.
Hannon’s impeccable free-taking sustained Mary I throughout the remainder of the first-half and it was his superb goal on 31 minutes that edged them two in front. John McGrath replied with a goal straight after to continue the ding-dong nature of the final. Four of the next six scores went the way of Mary I as they moved four clear. Again, though, UL fought back – McGrath bagging his second major on 45 minutes after initially hitting the post.
Hannon (free), Sean Linnane and a massive John Meagher score pointed towards a Mary I win and while two McGrath frees and Tommy Heffernan’s equaliser delayed their coronation, they eventually fell over the line.
Scorers for Mary I: D Hannon (1-12, 0-9 frees); C Lynch (0-5, 0-1 free); D O’Donovan (0-1 free), S Linnane, D Reidy (0-3 each); D Corry, J Meagher, S Cahill, T Gallagher (0-1 each).
Scorers for UL: J McGrath (2-7, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’65); T Heffernan (0-6); T Morrissey (1-1); C Martin, K Hehir, A McGuane (0-2 each); J Forde, C McInerney (0-1 each)
Mary I: M O Conghaile (Galway); A Ryan (Tipperary), R English (Limerick), E Quirke (Clare); J Meagher (Tipperary), R Maher (Tipperary); C Galvin (Clare), D O’Donovan (Limerick); S Linnane (Galway), C Lynch (Limerick), D Reidy (Limerick); D Hannon (Limerick), N O’Meara (Tipperary), D Corry (Clare).
Subs: M O’Neill (Clare) for Galvin (41 mins, inj), T Gallagher (Tipperary) for Reidy (50), S Cahill (Limerick) for O’Donovan (54), S Kennedy (Tipperary) for Linnane (60), D Reidy (Limerick) for Quirke (60), D O’Donovan (Limerick) for O’Meara (69), S Linnane (Galway) for Gallagher (74), T Gallagher (Tipperary) for Hannon (79).
UL: P Maher (Tipperary); S Roche (Galway), J Browne (Clare), G Ryan (Clare); B Heffernan (Tipperary), J Forde (Tipperary), B Stapleton (Tipperary); A McGuane (Clare), K Hehir (Clare); D Fitzgerald (Clare), J McGrath (Tipperary), C Martin (Kilkenny); K O’Brien (Limerick), T Morrissey (Limerick), C McInerney (Clare).
Subs: T Heffernan (Tipperary) for Fitzgerald (41 mins, inj), G Hegarty (Limerick) for Stapleton (43), A Murphy (Kilkenny) for O’Brien (57), M Casey (Limerick) for Hehir (60), P Ryan (Limerick) for Forde (60), B Maher (Tipperary) for McGuane (72), PJ Scully (Laois) for Murphy (78).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).