UCC looked to have the edge on GMIT during this game, but it took a masterful display around the middle by Dr Crokes man John Buckley to confirm their superiority. Buckley excelled, particularly in the second-half, giving a superb aerial display, and also strode forward to land two points.
UCC manager John Corcoran praised Buckley’s input afterwards. “John gave a display of some superb fielding in the second-half. He gave us a huge grip at midfield, but we always knew he had that ability. When we met last September, we said we wanted to reach the weekend and we’ve achieved that objective now. But once you get there, you want to go and win it.”
Buckley’s partnership with Michael Shields is UCC’s greatest strength. GMIT captain Paul Conroy’s ball playing was wonderful at times but Buckley and Shields enabled UCC to gain a crucial upper hand.
It was also another efficient afternoon for the UCC rearguard as well with Eoin Hegarty and Shane Enright getting to grips with GMIT danger men Stephen Griffin and Aidan Campbell. Outside them centre-back Adrian Greaney maintained the huge consistency which has characterised his campaign.
Despite those defensive and midfield footholds, it took UCC a long time to put this game to bed. The reasons for that were twofold. Firstly, GMIT were sticky, recovering from an adverse start where they shipped four points without reply in the first eight minutes. Throughout the second-half they stayed within touching distance and UCC always had to be wary of a late GMIT assault.
Secondly, UCC were not hugely decisive in front of goal. They only led by two points at the break, an advantage that would have been expanded only for faulty shooting that continued in the second-half as they totted up nine wides.
The most distance they placed between themselves and GMIT on the scoreboard was four points, and there was enough possession channelled forward to create a lead larger than that.
At the start of the game, UCC were in flying form. Daithí Casey, Barry O’Driscoll, Phillip Corrigan and Kevin O’Driscoll set white flags waving before GMIT had managed a score.
The sight of O’Driscoll in the starting line-up was a welcome boost for UCC. The Nemo man’s off the ball running and passing were excellent, while he also chipped in with three fisted points. A 20th minute score by O’Driscoll left UCC 0-6 to 0-2 in front and they were cruising.
But then GMIT got to grips with the game. Anthony Thompson tightened up their defence, Conroy sprayed ball into their attack and Stephen Griffin emerged as their offensive mainstay. By the interval they were only 0-8 to 0-6 adrift.
The second-half saw the quality of football dip but UCC created a greater amount of openings. Buckley was immense at midfield, while Sean Kiely brilliantly controlled matters at centre-forward. Kiely swung over a beautiful shot in the 43rd minute, yet a Griffin free meant GMIT were still in the hunt at 0-11 to 0-8 in arrears with ten minutes to go.
When the need was greatest though, UCC went about their business properly. Seamus Hayes shot a brace and O’Driscoll punched one to crown victory, with the closest GMIT came to rattling the UCC net arriving in the 57th minute. But Micheal Martin’s shot was well covered by Ken O’Halloran and UCC merited their last four place against Athlone IT.
Scorers for UCC: D Casey (0-3f), B O’Driscoll 0-3 each, S Kiely, J Buckley, S Hayes 0-2 each, P Corrigan, K O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
GMIT: S Griffin 0-5 (0-4f), A Campbell 0-2 (0-1f), J Burke, M Coady, D McIntyre 0-1 each.
UCC: K O’Halloran (Cork); E Cotter (Cork), E Hegarty (Cork), S Enright (Kerry); D Limrick (Cork), A Greaney (Kerry), P Corrigan (Limerick); M Shields (Cork), J Buckley (Kerry); K O’Driscoll (Cork), S Kiely (Cork), D Casey (Kerry); B O’Driscoll (Cork), S Hayes (Cork), P Honohan (Cork).
Subs: D Kearney (Cork) for Honohan (half-time), P Crowley (Kerry) for Limrick (58).
GMIT: D Dowd (Galway); P McGrath (Donegal), D Crawford (Donegal), E O’Sullivan (Galway); D Lee (Galway), A Thompson (Donegal), C Hands (Galway); P Conroy (Galway), M O’Brien (Galway); J Burke (Galway), P Regan (Galway), S Kavanagh (Galway); A Campbell (Mayo), S Griffin (Donegal), M Coady (Galway).
Subs: J Walshe (Galway) for Regan (25), A Deacy (Galway) for O’Sullivan (35), J Ryan (Galway) for Burke (38), D McIntyre (Donegal) for O’Brien (53), M Martin (Galway) for Coady (57).
Referee: Pat Sheehy (Kerry).