The Newtownshandrum style of hurling, which won them an historic first All-Ireland Club title last St Patrick’s Day, was clearly stamped all over UL’s play, and understandably so.
Patsy Morrissey, who was a Newtown selector, and coach Ger Cunningham are part of UL’s backroom team and have introduced the same style of play to the university side with devastating effect.
After a very shaky start, during which they gave WIT 1-1 from short puck-outs, UL settled down and carved open the WIT defence, playing the short hand-passing game.
It was from two such moves that they grabbed their two first-half goals.
UL had many heroes, two of whom were midfielder Niall Moran and centre forward Joe Gantley.
The Limerick senior controlled the middle of the field while Gantley showed his prowess as a scoring forward with 2-2 from play.
Goalkeeper Tadhg Flynn, the Kerry senior net-minder, also played a key role for the winners with a couple of crucial saves, while outside him John Devane, Robert Conlon and corner-forward Nicky Kenny also did well for the winners.
Waterford were a huge disappointment. They came looking for their third title in a row but never played to their potential and paid the price.
They only led once in the game, despite having more than their fair share of possession.
They could never cope with the possession game of UL and were almost totally dependent on the free -taking of Brian Dowling, who finished the game with eight points from placed balls.
Despite conceding 2-2 to Gantley, WIT centre-back PJ Delaney had an excellent match, and Hugh Maloney on his left never put a foot wrong.
WIT’s problems were up front. They could make no impression on a teak-tough UL defence and only Michael Walsh and Dowling looked the part.
UL won the toss and played with the elements in the first half. It looked to be the correct decision after they led 0-4 to 0-1 by the end of the opening quarter, but they were punished for a short puck-out in the 20th minute.
Adrian Cullinane intercepted a pass intended for Brendan Bulger and the WIT midfielder made no mistake from close range.
It gave the former champions the lead for the first and only time in the match, but UL’s reply was swift and decisive.
A great run by Ray Hayes from his own defence took him to the opponents’ 20-metre line before he put Gantley in for a cracking goal. The cheering had hardly died down before UL were back again, with Gantley putting Paul O’Flynn in for another goal, but their 2-5 to 1-4 half-time lead didn’t look good enough as they turned to play with the wind and rain.
Brian Dowling’s excellent free-taking had the sides level for a second time after 38 minutes, and WIT were expected to go on and win this keenly contested clash. However, UL, desperately keen to follow LIT into the final, were inspired by the brilliance of Niall Moran and two goals in quick succession effectively won them the match.
The first came in the 40th minute when WIT’s keeper came off his line to gather Ray Hayes’ long-range effort, but Nicky Kenny nipped in to knock the ball into the empty net.
On the puck-out UL were back for another goal, this time from Gantley after Brian Carroll made the opening for him.
They say champions die hard and WIT weren’t quite prepared to give up their title.
A cracking goal from a 20-metre free scored by their ‘keeper Philip Brennan threw the issue wide open.
Brennan was called into action again soon after from another 20-metre free, but UL goalie Tadhg Flynn saved superbly.
While WIT did manage to cut the deficit to a point thanks to Brian Dowling’s free-taking, UL held their nerve and it was fitting that Joe Gantley should finish the scoring with a point after Brian Carroll picked him out with a great cross-field pass.
Scorers for UL: J Gantley 2-2; N Moran 0-4 (0-1 free); N Kenny 1-1; P O’Flynn 1-0; B Carroll, D Greene (free) 0-1 each.
WIT: B Dowling 0-8 (0-7 frees); A Cullinane 1-1; P Brennan 1-0 (pen); PJ Delaney (free), E Reid, M Walsh, C Phelan 0-1 each.
UL: T Flynn; B Bugler, J Devane, A Murphy; R Conlon, R Hayes, G Flood; N Moran, B Coleman; P O’Flynn, J Gantley, D McCormack; B Carroll, D Greene, N Kenny.
Subs: J Henaghan for O’Flynn; T Healy for Coleman.
WIT: P Brennan; A Kirwan, K Rossiter, T Holland; J Brady, PJ Delaney, H Maloney; D Hayes, C Phelan; J Phelan, M Walsh, J Kennedy; E Reid, A Cullinane, B Dowling.
Subs: A Owens for Kennedy; K Brady for Holland; W Ryan for J Phelan.
Referee: B White (Tipperary).