UL still champions as late Garda rally fails

University of Limerick1-13 Garda College 2-8

With 15 minutes remaining, and having overturned a two-point half-time deficit, the Limerick students looked to have finally established their undoubted class and superiority as they led 1-12 to 2-5. For the final quarter, however, it was nearly all one-way traffic as Garda upped their challenge. First they came in search of goals, to add to the fortunate two they had notched in the first-half, but there was no way past a solid UL rearguard of Brian Mahony, John Devane and impressive captain Dermot Gleeson.

It was ironic that each of the two corner-backs, Mahony and Gleeson, had conceded those two early goals, but Tommy O'Connor and Johnny Small were both fortunate to see their shots for points deceive UL keeper Alan Franks and drop into the net. Those were the only two concessions by this impressive pair however and both in turn were very visible in those final hectic minutes.

Having failed in their quest for goals, the boys in blue aimed a little higher and points from captain Tony Carmody, hard-working midfielder Darren Rooney and second-choice free-taker Tommy O'Connor had them within a point with three minutes to go. In injury-time, Carmody, the Garda's best forward, missed a half-chance to tie it up and from the puck out the impressive Joe Gantley extended the UL advantage to two points. Garda had one last opportunity to snatch a victory when a lofted Tommy O'Connor free dropped into the square. The massed UL defence was up to the challenge, however, and the nifty Mahony emerged with the ball just as referee Michael Cahill blew it up.

Justice was done because UL were clearly the better hurlers and had more individual talent, but those two softly conceded goals nearly came back to haunt them. Kudos also must go to the never-say-die spirit of the Garda College, who played their part in keeping a good-sized crowd involved to the end.

Another managerial triumph then for UL's Ger Cunningham, but the man who did most to unnerve both Ger and his team was a player from the other successful side whose progress he is guiding, Newtownshandrum's Jerry O'Connor.

Jerry started at left-half-forward for Garda and it was his pace, stickwork and vision that set up namesake Tommy's goal. It was when shifted to his favoured midfield position, however, that Jerry really blossomed. There he formed a good partnership with Laois dual county star Darren Rooney and though they were up against a strong Limerick duo in Robert Conlon and Eoin Lynch, that was to remain one area of the park where the Garda College more than held their own.

Not enough, but nearly so.

Scorers: UL: N. Moran 1-3; R. Murray 0-4 (0-2 sidelines 0-1 free); J. Gantley 0-3; D. Greene 0-2 (frees); K. Burke 0-1.

Garda: T. Carmody 0-4 (0-1 free 0-1 65); J. Small 1-0; T. O'Connor 1-2 (0-2 frees); D. Rooney, D. Kennedy, 0-1 each.

UL: A. Franks; B. Mahony, J. Devane, D. Gleeson (c); G. Quinn, S. McDermott, D. Kennedy; R. Conlon, E. Lynch; R. Murray, N. Moran, J. Gantley; A. McGovern, K. Burke, D. Greene. Subs: C. Crowe (McGovern 27); E. McCormack (Greene 50); D. McCormack (Crowe 57).

GARDA COLLEGE: E. Dunphy; J. O'Donovan, D. Cloonan (c), A. Flaherty; A. Ivers, D. Kenneally, A. Diviney; D. Rooney, B. Stones; D. Kennedy, B. Culbert, J. O'Connor; J. Small, T. Carmody, T. O'Connor. Subs: D. Boland (Ivers 27); E. Twomey (Stones 27); T. Devereux (Culbert 40); T. Hogan (Cloonan inj. 60).

Referee: M. Cahill (Kilruane-McDonaghs).

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