After drawing with UCD, WIT travelled to Shannonside seeking a win to rescue their campaign. Instead this defeat means they must hope LIT can do them a massive favour in their final group clash with UCD next week.
If LIT triumph in that game by more than three points, WIT make the last eight on scoring difference. But if UCD manage to better that result, the Belfield outfit will go through at WIT’s expense.
Those dilemmas will not perturb LIT after they chiselled out a rousing win in a tough and uncompromising battle. The clash of two colleges that have divvied up six of the last eight Fitzgibbon Cup crowns had the portents of a cracking game.
However, hopes of a free-scoring hour of hurling were diminished by the a fierce gale as LIT firmly dominated proceedings when backed by it in the first-half and WIT rallied strongly after the break. But this was a fiercely contested tie, as epitomised by the brawl that erupted before referee Alan Kelly started proceedings.
That set the tone for some intense action yet when half-time arrived it was LIT who were 1-9 to 0-3 clear. It was an admirable advantage considering WIT had produced a sparkling opening when Fintan O’Leary and Ray McLoughney grabbed points and then Tipperary senior Seamus Callinan was forced off with a shoulder injury in the seventh minute.
But LIT quickly settled and the key to their first-half superiority was the intelligent manner in which they utilised possession. The platform for LIT’s dominance came from their superb half-back line. Patrick Donnellan and James McInerney’s prowess has been advertised on the senior intercounty stage with Clare, while at right half-back John O’Keeffe had a brilliant game.
Bernard Gaffney was a reliable source of scores from placed balls and Laois man Willie Hyland started to impact on proceedings too. When he beautifully judged the wind to arc a 19th minute sideline over the bear, they were 0-6 to 0-2 ahead. WIT, who withdrew McLoughney as a third midfielder in the first half, were defending resolutely but LIT eventually snuck in for a goal. Gaffney won a 28th minute close-range free and after the referee moved the ball forward for dissent, he stepped up to hammer the ball to the net. Ultimately that transpired to be an integral moment as it helped provide a nine-point cushion for LIT at the break.
WIT threw everything at LIT in the second half. They struggled initially to adjust to hurling with the breeze and as a consequence plenty of their shots tailed wide in the third quarter. Their revival was kick-started by centre-back David Langton while Timmy Hammersley and Fintan O’Leary assumed the scoring mantle up front.
Hammersley fired six points in the second half while O’Leary supplied a brace and was also grounded for two frees that were converted. The scoring splurge took too long to occur though as LIT displayed wonderful composure to retain possession. Eamonn Glynn, McInerney and Hyland all had fine games but Clare’s Sean Collins was the star of the show.
With two minutes to go WIT had trimmed the margin to 1-12 to 0-12 yet the goal their challenge required never looked like materialising. Wing-back Enda Barrett was then sent-off for a second yellow and Hyland sealed LIT’s victory with a stylish point. Hammersley had the final say but his point could not save WIT.
Scorers for Limerick IT: B Gaffney 1-4 (1-4 frees); W Hyland 0-4; S Tobin 0-2; S Collins, J O’Keeffe, P O’Brien 0-1 each.
Scorers for Waterford IT: T Hammersley 0-7 (five frees, one ‘65); F O’Leary 0-3; PJ Rowe, R McLoughney, E Barrett 0-1 each.
LIMERICK IT: M Ryan (Tipperary); E Glynn (Clare), C Cowan (Tipperary), C Cooney (Clare); P Donnellan (Clare), J McInerney (Clare), J O’Keeffe (Tipperary); P Browne (Limerick), P O’Brien (Limerick); S Lambert (Galway), S Collins (Clare), S Callinan (Tipperary); B Gaffney (Clare), W Hyland (Laois), S Tobin (Limerick).
Sub: D Reale (Limerick) for Callinan (inj) (7)
WATERFORD IT: L Tierney (Kilkenny); B Kenny (Galway), S Fives (Waterford), N Connors (Waterford); W Hutchinson (Waterford), D Langton (Kilkenny), E Barrett (Clare); M Molloy (Wexford), L Harney (Kilkenny); F O’Leary (Cork), PJ Rowe (Kilkenny), J Mulhall (Kilkenny); T Hammersley (Tipperary), B O’Meara (Tipperary), R McLoughney (Tipperary).
Subs: C Parlon (Offaly) for Mulhall (41); J Dowling (Kilkenny) for Molloy (42), A Power (Waterford) for Tierney (48).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).
Munster trio in quarter-finals
Limerick IT, Cork IT and UL have all qualified for the quarter-finals.
Remaining fixtures: Tuesday: Group A: UCD v Limerick IT, Belfield; Group B: Cork IT v Dublin IT, CIT; Group C: UUJ v GMIT, Jordanstown; Group D: UCC v DCU, Mardyke.