Torrential rain, gale force winds and a mud-strewn surface made play difficult but the young Garda recruits coped better with the conditions and deserved their one-point triumph.
UCC did come agonisingly close to forcing the match into extra time while Garda College scorned a few gilt-edged scoring opportunities to open up daylight between the sides — both of whom should be given credit for their performance on a particularly slippery pitch.
With the wind to their backs, the home side dominated from the start and took the lead with a point from full forward Cormac Bane in the fifth minute. Brian Mulvihill equalised for UCC seconds later when he kicked over a free but Garda continued to dominate the affair.
With wing forward Denis Glennon and corner forward Stephen Kelly impressive in attack, Garda College regained the lead with a point from play by Bane but they let UCC off the hook with a succession of inexcusable misses after getting into good scoring positions.
And they paid a hefty price as UCC came back to level things with two points in succession by Paul O’Connor and Mulvihill.
The Cork students proceeded to stamp their authority on the game through high-fielding midfielder Michael Cussen. Cussen was the star of the show as UCC took a 0-4 to 0-3 interval lead.
With a huge wind advantage in their favour after the change of ends it would have been a brave punter who would have betted against UCC. >
But a minute after the resumption, UCC were dealt a blow as the boys in blue snatched the most important score of the match.
Wing forward Glennon broke down the right, and punched a high ball across the face of the goal. UCC defender Kieran Connery failed to clear his lines and corner forward Stephen Kelly fisted home.
UCC captain Michael Shiels, Brendan Ger O’Sullivan and Conor McCarthy tried in vain to rally their forces and two points from top scorer, Tipperary senior Brian Mulvihill, did bring UCC back on an even keel with eight minutes remaining.
But substitute Shane Hickey from Clare emerged the hero of the hour for Garda College when he kicked over a point which proved the match winning score six minutes from the end.
UCC’s hopes evaporated when Mulvihill kicked wide from close range with a snap shot and then an attempt for an equalising point from Conor McCarthy dropped into the arms of goalkeeper David Clarke as time ran out.
Garda College: S. Kelly (1-0), C. Bane (0-2, 0-1 free), D. Glennon, S. Hickey (0-1 each). UCC: B. Mulvihill (0-5, 0-2 frees), P. O’Connor (0-1).
D. Clarke, N. Keenan, C. McGrath, E. Talty, D. Hickey, S. Casey, G. Dillon, M. O’Shea, R. Guinan, E. Coughlan, P. O’Connor, D. Glennon, S. Kelly, C. Bane, J. Keane. Subs: S. Hickey for Bane, A. Dermody for Coughlan.
K. O’Halloran, M. Fitzgerald, D. Óg O’Donovan, K. Connery, N. Horgan, M. Shiels, D. Limerick, M. Cussen, P. Kelly, M. O’Donoghue, B.G. O’Sullivan, R. Power, B. Mulvihill, C. McCarthy, P. O’Connor, Sub: G. Leahy for O’Connor.
M. Meade (Limerick).