Fitzpatrick, who won All-Ireland medals with St Kieran’s College (Kilkenny) and the county minor team last year, was unerring both from frees and play as the Cork students booked their place in yet another final today.
Taking over the free-taking duties, Fitzpatrick accounted for nine of his side’s points, six of them from placed balls.
Criticism had been levelled at the UCC attack for their failure to do their job against NUIG in the quarter-final and while there was a big improvement in that five forwards got on the score sheets in this game, the continuing profligacy in front of goal will be a concern ahead of today’s decider.
Full-forward Eamon Collins missed two sitters that should have closed the door on LIT a lot earlier. However, to be fair to the Cork senior player, he did an amount of good work when switched outfield and was regularly seen back in defence, helping out his overworked colleagues.
While Fitzpatrick did the bulk of the scoring, Tipperary senior Mark O’Leary and Noel Moloney also made major contributions on the scoreboard. O’Leary knocked over four excellent points as did Moloney, all from play.
The UCC defence was soundness personified. All seven did their job to perfection with corner-back Michael Phelan and wing-back Tom Kenny particularly brilliant. Tommy Walsh, who lined out at midfield for his injured county colleague Michael Rice, had the proverbial blinder.
For LIT, it was very much a case of so near and yet so far. They came into the game with high hopes of reaching their first Fitzgibbon Final and while they matched UCC in most facets of the game, they were almost totally reliant on Eoin Kelly for scores.
And the Tipperary senior did not disappoint, chalking up 1-8 of his side’s tally, but only one other forward managed to get on the scoreboard for LIT - Andrew Quinn, who chipped in with two points.
The Cork side led after 15 seconds from a James Fitzpatrick point and with the LIT defence a little over-zealous in their tackling,
Fitzpatrick pointed two frees in quick succession to give his side a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after 10 minutes.
LIT looked in trouble as Michael Phelan kept a tight rein on Eoin Kelly, but not for long. In the space of three minutes, Kelly registered 1-2.
It was the only time in the game LIT led, and as the match
developed into a cracking contest, the sides were level three times before Eamon Collins lost a goal chance for the Cork students, who retired 0-9 to 1-5 in front at the interval.
With wind advantage in their favour, LIT enjoyed a lot of possession, they couldn’t break down a resolute UCC defence.
At the other end, the LIT backs continued to give away needless frees which Fitzpatrick pointed each time. Eoin Kelly kept his side’s hopes alive with a magnificent point from a sideline cut.
Only a great save by LIT keeper Sean Hawes denied Noel Moloney a goal before UCC’s pressure earned them four points on the trot and a comfortable victory.
Scorers for UCC: J. Fitzpatrick 0-9 (0-6 frees, 0-1 65), M. O’Leary 0-4, N. Moloney 0-2, M. O’Connor (65), E. Conway, T. Kenny, E. Collins 0-1 each.
Limerick IT - E. Kelly 1-8 (0-5 frees), A. Quinn 0-2, M. Farrell 0-1.
UCC: R O’Neill; J. Tennyson, C. Hickey, M. Phelan; E. Hanley, K. Hartnett, T. Kenny; T. Walsh, M. O’Connor; M. O’Leary, E. Conway, S. O’Sullivan; J. Fitzpatrick, E. Collins, N. Moloney.
Subs: D. O’Sullivan for O’Connor, R. O’Brien for Moloney, J. Crowley for Conway.
LIMERICK IT: S. Hawes; M. Cahill, J. Coen, R. O’Reilly; M. O’Brien, D. Reale, B. O’Connell; S. Tierney, I. Tannion; A. Quinn, C. Plunkett, S. McGrath; E. Kelly, N. Healy, C. Early.
Subs: M. Farrell for O’Brien, A. Callanan for Early.
Referee: P. Horan (Offaly).