Clare, UCC and Tipperary were accounted for en route to tomorrow’s decider against Liam Kearns’ Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds (2pm).
“Thankfully, everything has gone well for us,” said team mentor Liam Hodnett.
“The biggest benefit we’ve got from taking part is the four highly competitive games. We are currently preparing for the Sigerson Cup and those quality matches have been a huge benefit to the lads.
“We have no household names, just an ordinary group of honest players totally committed to doing well on the big stage. This is all new for us, but it gives the players the chance to play inter-county football, and I’ve no doubt some will make a name for themselves with their counties.”
“Our idea in taking part was to get at least one good quality match, but having scraped through against Clare with a couple of lucky goals, we began to sense we could give the competition a good rattle. The win over UCC in round two was well-merited and it gave us our first victory over them in a competitive match, which was important for us.
“The view going into the semi-final against Tipperary was that with Declan Browne missing, we stood a great chance of winning. It was possibly our best display of the three.
“We moved the ball very well, and they are showing the benefit of Tony Leahy’s excellent coaching. A win tomorrow would be the perfect fillip ahead of our Sigerson game.” But it wouldn’t be easy: “Limerick are the reigning champions and it wouldn’t do them any good to have it said they were beaten by a third-level college.”
Limerick have used the McGrath Cup to blood a couple of newcomers, and Kearns is satisfied with that results. Jim O’Donovan has been a revelation as John Quane’s midfield partner in the absence of Jason Stokes while John Galvin, Seán Buckley, Pat Fitzgerald and Ger Ahern have all impressed.
Captain Muiris Gavin is back from honeymoon, but he is likely to be on the bench for the tie.
However, in a blow to the side, Stephen Kelly has opted out of the inter-county scene for personal reasons. There is no lack of talent for the college side. Cork senior hurler John Gardiner, whose late goal against Clare began CIT’s great run, misses out on a return tomorrow after a two-week lay-off.
Kerry’s Bryan Sheehan is an injury doubt due to ankle ligament problems and will undergo a fitness test in Limerick.
Paddy Nealon returns after missing last week’s win over Tipp due to club duty and he will be assisted by his U21 county colleague Michael Prout, Daniel Goulding, AlanMorgan, Vincent Hurley and talented Wexford youngster Robert Megeean.
Experience could be the key over youth tomorrow - a factor which should keep the McGrath Cup trophy on Shannonside.
: M. Jones; J. McCarthy, D. Sheehy, P. Browne; D. Reidy, S. Lavin, A. Lane; J. Quane, J. O’Donovan; S. Buckley, P. Fitzgerald, C. Mullane; G. Ahern, J. Murphy, C. Hickey.
: K. Murphy (Cork); M. Prout (do.), P. Nealon (do.), P. Sheehan (Kerry); A. Sheehy (Castlehaven), N. Hennessy (Waterford), E. O’Connor (Cork); D. Breen (Kerry), R. Megeean (Wexford); V. Hurley (Cork), A. Morgan (do.), D. O’Connor (do.); D. Goulding (do.), P. O’Flynn (do.), B. Sheehan (Kerry).