LIT had the elements in their favour in the opening half, but needed a good half-time lead if they were to have any chance.
However, UL’s defence, with Timmy Houlihan excellent in goal and Brian Geary rock-solid at centre-back, gave little away, and it was all too easy for the champions on the changeover. Apart from Houlihan and Geary, their inter-county colleague Niall Moran was majestic at midfield and was ably assisted by Galway senior Richie Murray.
In attack, Joe Gantley was hugely influential, particularly in the first half, while Brian Carroll and David Forde also made excellent contributions.
LIT were hugely disappointing. With so much talent available, they were expected to push UL all the way, but after being level four times in the opening half, they collapsed completely on the changeover and were a well beaten side at the finish.
Corner-backs Brian O’Connell and Ronan O’Reilly were outstanding in the first half, but the former ruined all his good work by receiving a straight red card for a reckless pull late in the game.
Conor Plunkett also had his moments, but apart from Francis Devanney, who played in last year’s All-Ireland minor final with Tipperary, no other player could make an impression and that included Eoin Kelly, who was well held by his county colleague John Devane.
“It was a very disappointing result for us,” said LIT coach Davy Fitzgerald. “No way are UL 17 points a better team than we are. We just didn’t perform.
“I would also question the attitude of some of our players who threw in the towel very early in the second half, but overall I have no complaints. We were beaten by a better team on the day”.
UL manager Ger Cunningham said everything worked out as he had planned it.
“We were a bit nervous going into the game, but when we won the toss, and went in level at half-time, I felt there was only going to be one result.
“The fact that we were the reigning champions the experience stood to us and we were the more balanced team throughout the field”.
There was little to choose between the sides in a fiery opening half at the end of which the sides retired level at 0-7 apiece, helped in no small way by a magnificent save by Timmy Houlihan from Daithí O’Connell in the 30th-minute.
The second half was purely shooting practice for UL and after a litany of points, Kenneth Burke and Richie Murray finally beat LIT goalkeeper Seán Hawes for a goal each to put the seal on an excellent display that would be good enough to see off the challenge of WIT in the semi-final.
Scorers for UL: B. Carroll 0-6 (0-5 frees); N. Moran, 0-5; R. Murray 1-3 (1-1 frees, 0-1 65); K. Burke 1-0; J. Gantley, C. Fitzgerald, D. Forde 0-2 each; D. Green 0-1.
LIT: E. Kelly 0-5 (0-4 frees); B. Nugent 0-3; C. Plunkett (frees), M. Keane 0-1 each.
UL: T. Houlihan; M. O’Hara, J. Devane, B. O’Mahony; M. Maher, B. Geary, J. Quinn; N. Moran, R. Murray; C. Fitzgerald, D. Gleeson, J. Gantley; B. Carroll, D. Forde, K. Burke.
Subs. J. O’Connor for O’Mahony; D. Green for Fitzgerald; S. McDermott for Gantley; S. Mason for Maher.
LIT: S. Hawes; B. O’Connell, K. Kennedy, R. O’Reilly; G. Griffin, C. Plunkett, M. O’Brien; F. Devaney, I. Tannian; E. Kelly, B. Nugent, S. Tierney; M. Keane, A. Quinn, D. O’Connell. Subs. K. Callanan for O’Brien; M. Somers for A. Quinn; C. Earlie for Nugent.
Referee: B. Kelly (Westmeath).
The Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final between CIT and UCD fixed for the CIT Grounds on Saturday was postponed. The game will now take in Dublin, most likely on Thursday, the date still to be confirmed.