Delight for the University of Limerick after a comfortable Fitzgibbon Cup final win over Waterford Institute of Technology last night in Páirc Uí Rinn, the men from Limerick far too strong for their opponents.
As a contest this replay didn’t live up to the first day’s action, but that emphatic UL display provided its own highlights, particularly the contributions of Clare seniors David McInerney and Tony Kelly, which were crucial to the UL win.
Spectators didn’t have long to wait for a significant twist on what was a perfect night for hurling. WIT’s Austin Gleeson, a doubt all week, was named at wing-forward but began on the edge of the square. Tentative in his approach to the first two balls that came his way, the Waterford star was in obvious discomfort and didn’t last three minutes before being replaced by Johnny Hayes.
That weakened WIT considerably, and their difficulties were compounded by UL captain David McInerney’s force at centre-back, despite wearing the number three jersey.
Early on WIT found it hard to make headway against that strong half-back line opposing them, while, on the other side, UL had Tony Kelly ghosting forward in trademark fashion to supplement his forwards. The pressure this put on the WIT defence meant frees, and John McGrath’s accuracy from play and dead balls kept the scoreboard ticking over for UL.
On 13 minutes the first goal arrived — UL wing-back Daire Quinn lofted a towering clearance down into the opposition square and the ball squirted from defender Ger Teehan’s hands into the net.
The decision wasn’t clear-cut to the umpires, though they seemed the only observers in Páirc Uí Rinn who were doubtful — when referee Barry Kelly went in to consult he allowed the goal, making it 1-4 to 0-3.
Credit WIT, they responded with a good Pauric Mahony point, but UL were in the ascendant. Kelly chipped in with two more points, one of which might have been a goal, and Kevin O’Brien hit a fine point from range to give the Limerick side a five-point lead.
Sub Hayes almost pulled a goal back for WIT with five minutes to the break, but an alert Paul Maher in the UL goal smothered his effort. Two late scores, by Kelly and Conor Martin, gave UL a deserved 1-9 to 0-6 lead at the half.
WIT started the second-half well with a Tom Fox point but Kelly became more and more influential as the game wore on, with his passing and shooting. The Limerick students stretched out their lead with points by John McGrath, Kevin O’Brien and a fine sideline cut by Jason Forde.
When McGrath placed Tommy Heffernan for UL’s second goal with 10 minutes left, however, the game was over as a contest — that made it 2-17 to 0-10, and though WIT hit back with late points and a goal by Gavin O’Brien to take the bare look off the scoreboard, UL weren’t to be denied.
Good news, then, for UL, and also for Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald, who will welcome back two of his cornerstones for the remaining Banner league games. Waterford manager Derek McGrath would also have seen plenty to cheer him in WIT’s performance, though Gleeson’s injury will be a concern for the Déise.
David McInerney played a captain’s role, while some of Tony Kelly’s interventions were sublime. Between the two of them.
That first-half goal for UL gave them the breathing space they needed.
Brian Lohan’s reordered defence gave WIT very little space.
Haven’t seen that before
Flash of skill from Tony Kelly to lay the ball off to Jason Forde in the second half: class.
Man in black
Barry Kelly handled the game well, including the slight delay in giving that goal.
Celebrations for UL, disappointment for WIT.
Scorers for UL: J. McGrath (0-4 fs) and T. Kelly 0-2 fs) 0-6 each; T. Heffernan 1-2; D. Quinn 1-0; K. O’Brien, C. McInerney, C. Martin and J. Forde (sl) 0-1 each.
Scorers for WIT: P. Mahony 0-9 (0-4 fs, 0-1 65); G. O’Brien 1-1; T. Fox, H. Kehoe, J. Dillon and J. Hayes 0-1 each.
UL: P. Maher (Tipperary), J. Browne (Clare), B. Troy (Kilkenny), G. Ryan (Clare), D. Quinn (Tipperary), D. McInerney (Clare)(c), B. Stapleton (Tipperary), D. Morrissey (Limerick), T. Kelly (Clare), J. McGrath (Tipperary), C. Martin (Kilkenny), K. O’Brien (Limerick), T. Heffernan (Tipperary), J. Forde (Tipperary),
C. McInerney (Clare).
Subs: S. Bennett (Waterford) for C. McInerney, 49; PJ Scully (Laois) for K. O’Brien 56; S. O’Gorman (Wexford) for Morrissey, 57; K. Walsh (Kilkenny) for Heffernan and E. Moriarty (Kilkenny) for Forde, both 59.
WIT: D. Stapleton (Limerick), T. Fox (Tipperary), G. Teehan (Kilkenny), J. Maher (Waterford), T. Hamill (Tipperary), M. O’Neill (Waterford), O. McGrath (Kilkenny), J. Langton (Kilkenny), S. Roche (Waterford), H. Kehoe (Wexford), P. Mahony (Waterford), A. Gleeson (Waterford), G. O’Brien (Waterford), L. McGrath (Tipperary), J. Dillon (Waterford) (C).
Subs: J. Hayes (Kilkenny) for Gleeson (inj), 4; G. Malone (Kilkenny) for L. McGrath, 45; C. O’Brien (Cork) for Roche, 53; J. O’Dwyer (Tipperary) for Hamill 58.
Referee: B. Kelly (Westmeath).
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