At cold and windy Ardfinnan yesterday, Waterford IT dethroned champions University of Limerick to set up a final meeting with CIT at The Ragg next Saturday.
With both sides laden with inter-county talent, much was expected of this clash, but it failed to get off the ground, as a highly talented WIT atoned for last year’s final defeat at the hands of the same opposition.
WIT served notice of their intentions in the first minute when Setanta Ó hAilpín brushed his way past a couple of defenders, failed to get in the strike at the first attempt, but made no mistake at the second time of asking.
Credit UL, they made a bold bid to hold onto their crown, but while they managed to pull down a six-point lead midway through the second half and failed to convert a late penalty, they were forced to play second fiddle for most of a hard-fought contest.
In last year’s final, Ollie Moran was the toast of UL after he coached them to victory. Yesterday, he opposed them as a player was in the opposite corner, as a player, and gave a marvellous display at midfield, and later at centre forward where he had the measure of his county colleague Brian Geary.
WIT played with the aid of the strong wind in the first half and with Moran a commanding figure at midfield, they raced into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead after 15 minutes. UL’s cause wasn’t helped when they lost the services of full-back John Devane after a clumsy tackle on Ó hAilpín, who had another excellent outing at full-forward.
Only some silly frees conceded by an otherwise excellent WIT defence, punished by the excellent marksmanship of Brian Carroll, prevented UL from being completely overrun in that opening half. As it was, a six-point deficit looked to be way beyond them as Carroll accounted for all of his side’s five points in that period as a rock-solid WIT defence well-marshalled by Paul Curran and JJ Delaney, gave little away. There was a lot more urgency in UL on the changeover and when Conor Fitzgerald found the net in the 37th-minute, they were back in business. AS WIT began to struggle in the face of enormous UL pressure, the defending champions drew level with a succession of points, three of them from Carroll. However, WIT made a master move by bringing on Rory Jacob and he showed his class with three excellent points in succession to nip the UL recovery in the bud. UL continued to battle hard to save their title, but all hope was lost when Damien Young blocked Richie Murray’s effort from a last-minute penalty.
Scorers for WIT: D. Murray 0-6 (frees); S. Ó hAilpín 1-1; R. Jacob 0-3; B. Dowling, M. Jacob 0-2 each; F. Flynn, MJ Furlong , O. Moran, 0-1 each.
UL: B. Carroll 0-8 (0-6 freees); C. Fitzgerald 1-1; M. Maher, J. Gantley, D. Gleeson, N. Moran 0-1 each.
WIT: D. Young; B. Lynch, P. Curran,. JJ Delaney; M. Fitzgerald, J. Brady, H. Moloney; O. Moran, F. Flynn; B. Dowling, M. Jacob, MJ Furlong; C. Phelan, S. Ó hAilpín, D. Murray.
Subs: S. Hennessy for Flynn; R. Jacob for Furlong; K. Coonan for Moloney.
UL: T. Houlihan; M. O’Hara, J. Devane, A. Franks; M. Maher, B. Geary, C.
McGann; N. Moran, R. Murray; C. Fitzgerald, D. Gleeson, J. Gantley; B. Carroll, D. Forde, K. Burke.
Sub: B. O’Mahony for Devane.
Referee: W. Barrett (Tipperary).