WATCH: Mary I retain Fitzgibbon Cup crown after entertaining final

Fitzgibbon Cup Final

Mary Immaculate College 3-24 IT Carlow 1-19

Aaron Gillane fired 1-5 as Mary Immaculate College claimed back-to-back Fitzgibbon Cup titles at Pearse Stadium, writes Cóilín Duffy.

Winners for the first time ever last year, the Limerick college failed to trail in this contest, against an IT Carlow side contesting their first ever decider.

Wind assisted, Jamie Wall's side settled quickest and built up a 0-12 to 0-4 lead after 22 minutes, with two first quarter sideline cuts from Darragh O'Donovan providing two standout scores for the eventual winners.

The loss of Kilkenny's Kevin Kelly through a hamstring injury, after IT Carlow's semi-final win over UCC was a major blow, and with a tough extra-time last-four clash behind them, it was always going to be tough to deliver once again inside 24 hours.

Despite an early Mary I onslaught, IT Carlow responded well, with three scores in succession including some from scorer-in-chief Stephen Maher, as the Laoisman helped narrow the gap to five points with four minutes left in the half.

But Mary I responded well with former All-Star Colm Galvin and Man of the Match Cian Lynch ensuring a 0-16 to 0-8 double-scores interval lead, following his third score.

Video from Jerome Quinn.

IT Carlow were more composed in the early stages after the restart, with two Maher pointed frees cutting the gap inside four minutes of the throw-in.

In between, Mary I registered three wides, but they would hold their opponents scoreless over the next five minutes, while registering an unanswered 1-2.

Michael O'Neill fired his side’s first score of the half, before O'Donovan fired to the net with a neat one-handed strike, after Luke Meade was the provider.

Conor Twomey extended the lead to 11 points two minutes later, but IT Carlow claimed four of the next five points, with Carlow's Martin Kavanagh; Maher, and Waterford's Colin Dunford on target.

Mary I continued to keep their distance, and moved 2-20 to 0-14 ahead with 11 minutes remaining, after Gillane bagged a penalty goal, having been fouled himself, following a long delivery by Conor Twomey.

Maher kept the scoreboard ticking over for IT Carlow and brought his tally to 1-13 by the 56th minute - the goal coming six minutes from time.

The gap stood at seven points with three and a half minutes of normal time left, but IT Carlow wouldn't score again until injury time - a late point from Charles Dwyer, as a goal from substitute Pa Ryan, after an initial save from Enda Rowland on a Meade shot - ensured Mary I lifted silverware with 11 points to spare.

Aaron Gillane of Mary Immaculate College Limerick in action against Ross Brown of IT Carlow during the HE GAA Fitzgibbon Cup Final match between IT Carlow and Mary Immaculate College Limerick at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

MARY IMMACULATE COLLEGE: Ciaran Barrett; David Sweeney, Richie English, Eoin Quirke; Conor Twomey (0-3), Ronan Maher (0-4, 3f), Alan Flynn; Colm Galvin (0-1), Stephen Cahill (0-1); Darragh O'Donovan (1-3, 0-2 s/l), Michael O'Neill (0-3), Aaron Gillane (1-5, 1-0pen, 4f); Tadhg Gallagher, Cian Lynch (0-3), Luke Meade (0-1). Subs: Thomas Monaghan for Gallagher (HT); Pa Ryan (1-0) for O'Neill (55); Sean Burke for Gillane (63).

IT CARLOW: Enda Rowland; Dwane Palmer, Kevin Hannafin, Ross Browne; Robert Moran, Damian Healy, Dale O'Hanlon; James Doyle, Colin Dunford (0-2); Martin Kavanagh (0-1), Charles Dwyer (0-2), Stephen Maher (1-13, 12f); Chris Bolger (0-1), Mark Russell, Jack Fagan. Sub: Tommy Nolan for Russell (50).

REFEREE: Brian Gavin (Offaly)

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