Cronin’s late point earns CIT unconvincing win

CORK Institute of Technology secured a place in next week’s Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final against the University of Limerick, but only after a nerve-shredding journey on their home ground yesterday.

The hosts went through a strange hour of hurling in this quarter-final, mixing some sublime stuff in the first-half with an unsteady second-half performance which almost proved fatal. But substitute Eoghan Cronin popped up in the 63rd minute to inch them a point ahead, and it was a score befitting its matchwinning status, struck flush on the sideline under pressure. Defeat left UCD disconsolate after they had produced a stirring display and overcome the debilitating loss of Tommy Fitzgerald, who he was sent off in the 28th minute.

CIT coach Frank Flannery admitted that “relief is the main emotion. We got out of jail. We didn’t play particularly well, but we looked a tired team. The 14 men rose their game and we didn’t know what to do with the free man at times. We’ll drive on but on that performance we won’t be going any further.”

CIT attacker Cathal Naughton concurred with Flannery’s assessment.

“We were very lucky to win; it was one of those games we had to fight until the end. It just showed the strength of our panel, a couple of subs coming in and getting great scores.”

CIT never really scaled the heights of their victory over UCC last week and the intensity and energy of that performance was absent. The defining moment in dictating that arrived in the 28th minute when UCD substitute Fitzgerald, who was only on the field a few minutes, was received a red card for an off-the-ball striking offence. At that time CIT led 0-8 to 0-3, yet the sending-off had surprising effects.

It prompted UCD to raise their performance considerably as their 14 men played with greater unity and hunger while CIT were left subdued, unable to string together good moves.

The opening half had been a different tale. CIT sprinted 0-4 to 0-1 ahead after 14 minutes, a great shot by Tony Murphy the pick of their points. UCD were getting scant joy out of a miserly CIT backline and were grateful to points from PJ Nolan and Maurice Nolan that left them only 0-5 to 0-3 adrift after 22 minutes.

Then CIT enjoyed their most fruitful spell, led by Adrian Mannix who launched over three stunning points from midfield. They ploughed on to lead 0-9 to 0-4 at the interval and had the comfort of an extra man to look forward to in the second-half.

But the game swerved onto a different route in the third quarter. Rapid fire points by PJ Nolan and substitute Keith Hogan, trimmed CIT’s lead and even though Ryan Clifford converted a free for CIT, Hogan gave the Dublin side great hope with a goal in the 43rd minute, after he stole in behind the CIT backline to seize on a long ball.

At 0-10 to 1-6, CIT’s lead looked precarious and they needed the resilience of Chris Murphy and Eoin Dillon, who were both excellent, to ensure UCD did not inflict further damage. Wing-forward Peter Downey pointed a vital score in the 51st minute and further points by Mannix and Downey had CIT 0-13 to 1-7 in front by the 56th.

But there was one last powerful surge in UCD. Maurice Nolan snapped over two frees, wing-back Neal Prendergast moved forward for another and suddenly the sides were level. UCD were the coming force and it took a combination of CIT’s stout defence and UCD’s skewed shooting to ensure the visitors did not take a lead. Instead CIT worked the opening for that late Cronin point and they staggered over the line in front.

Scorers for Cork IT: A Mannix 0-6 (0-2f, 0-1 ‘65), R Clifford 0-3 (0-3f), P Downey 0-2, C Naughton, T Murphy, E Cronin 0-1 each.

Scorers for UCD: K Hogan 1-2, M Nolan 0-4 (0-4f), PJ Nolan 0-2, L Ryan, N Prendergast 0-1 each.

CORK IT: C Barry (Cork); J O’Callaghan (Cork), E Dillon (Cork), C Murphy (Cork); S McDonnell (Cork), R Cashman (Cork), G O’Driscoll (Cork); S White (Cork), A Mannix (Cork); P Gould (Cork), B Corry (Cork), P Downey (Tipperary); C Naughton (Cork), T Murphy (Cork), R Clifford (Cork).

Subs: N Teehan for O’Callaghan (inj) (19), S Howley (Galway) for Gould (41), M O’Connor (Cork) for Teehan (48), E Cronin (Cork) for Clifford (58).

UCD: C McDonnell (Tipperary); E O’Shea (Kilkenny), S Cummins (Cork), O Gough (Dublin); N Prendergast (Kilkenny), S Nolan (Wexford), D Langton (Kilkenny); J Walsh (Laois), L Ryan (Kilkenny); J Boland (Dublin), D Lyng (Kilkenny), M Nolan (Kilkenny); C Lyng (Wexford), PJ Nolan (Wexford), K Burke (Wexford). Subs: T Fitzgerald (Tipperary) for Burke (24), K Hogan (Kilkenny) for Lyng (h/t).

Referee: James Dorgan (Cork).

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