Rocked after conceding a goal after less than two minutes and reduced to 14 men in the 47th minute when corner-back Kieran Connery received a straight red for a stamping offence, UCC held their composure to register a two-point victory.
Despite these setbacks in a physically tough and uncompromising clash, UCC, with corner-forward Ronan Hussey in sparkling form and Fintan Gould working his socks off, always looked the more accomplished side.
Hussey, a Sneem native, kicked six points from play, while Gould’s work-rate was impressive as the Cork students began to impose their will after their nightmare start.
Galway ace Michael Meehan gave his side the best possible start when he blasted home a goal within 90 seconds after grabbing a high ball from centre-forward Fiachra Breathnach.
But apart from Meehan, who chalked up all of his side’s scores - bar a single point - Galway lacked the necessary finesse to win, despite their numerical advantage in the closing quarter.
After UCC were denied an equalising goal in the third minute when excellent goalkeeper Ronan O’Reilly deflected a close-range shot from full-forward Donnacha Walsh out for a 45, the sides, with Hussey and Meehan kicking spectacularly, were level on five occasions in the first-half.
Sharp-shooter Hussey edged the home side into the lead with a point in the 26th minute but the mercurial Meehan, with a splendid penalty conversion in injury-time after Breathnach had been hauled down, powered Galway in front - 2-4 to 0-8 - at the break.
When Meehan was denied a hat-trick by a great save from goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran six minutes after the resumption, UCC, following a goal from the penalty spot by John Hayes, moved up a gear and stretched their lead to four points before Connery got his marching orders.
Galway, with two pointed frees from Meehan and another from play by full-forward Greg Rogan, turned up the heat in the closing stages, but UCC held their nerve and Hussey’s sixth point copper-fastened their triumph and progression to the quarter-final stages.
: UCC: J Hayes 1-2 (1-1f); R Hussey 0-6; F Gould 0-3 (0-2f); C Brosnan 0-1. NUI Galway: M Meehan 2-6 (1-5f); G Rogan 0-1.
: K O’Halloran; D Óg O’Donovan, M Shields, K Connery; R McCarthy, D Limerick, J Wycherley; P Kelly, M Cussen; F Gould, C Brosnan, P O’Connor; R Hussey, D Walsh, J Hayes.
: R Long for Kelly; B Mulvihill for Hayes (inj); G Leahy for O’Connor; N Horgan for Long.
: R O’Reilly; D McDermott, F Hanley, D Blake; E Towey, G Bradshaw, A Glynn; D Duffy, M Finneran; R Kane, F Breathnach, D Harte; M Meehan, G Rogan, J Egan.
: G Sice for Towey; K Kennedy for Kane; N Kilmartin for Finneran.
: M Meade (Limerick).