The former Kilkenny minor winning captain in 2002 broke his hand in a challenge against Newtownshandrum at the weekend and will be a huge loss to the Cork students.
UCC last won the title in 1998 when current Tipperary midfielder Eddie Enright lead them to victory. They subsequently lost the 2001 final to UCD, captained by David Hegarty (Clare).
LIT, coached by Clare goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald, have a full complement of players and, according to Development Officer Joe Bulfin, are looking forward to rubbing shoulders with one of the Fitzgibbon traditionalists.
“If our players cannot motivate themselves to play UCC, then we have no business travelling to Athlone,” said Bulfin. “This is the biggest game we’ve played since first taking part in the Fitzgibbon Cup and it’s the perfect opportunity for us to really establish ourselves at this level.
“However, there is no question of us underestimating UCC. It’s a huge game for us but we’ll be ready for it”, said Bulfin.
If UCC are to beat LIT, there will have to be a far greater return from their forwards, who failed to impress against NUIG in the quarter-final.
Defensively they were excellent, with John Tennyson, Canice Hickey, Tommy Walsh and Tom Kenny unbeatable and it’s a safe bet that Eoin Kelly, UL’s prolific scorer, won’t get anything like the 1-9 he scored against Cork IT in round one and with Tipperary at the weekend.
If UCC succeed in containing Kelly, the sting could well be taken out of LIT’s tale.
UL include Damien Reale and Maurice O’Brien in defence; Andrew Quinn, Conor Plunkett, Clive Early (Clare) should start in attack, and with Davie Fitzgerald, the real driving force behind the team, UL won’t be easily beaten.