NUIG prevailed by a point and that victory propelled them towards ultimate glory in the final. LIT have endured that dejection for 12 months and yesterday they ruthlessly exacted revenge in the Moylish Park quarter-final.
A gaping chasm has opened up between these two colleges as LIT dumped the champions out of this year’s title race by a whopping 25 points.
Admittedly NUIG were minus key men – Tipperary senior Seamus Hennessy was suspended, Galway senior Joseph Cooney was sidelined with a cracked thumb and Clarinbridge’s All-Ireland Club involvement sidelined county midfielder Barry Daly.
But even if they had been able to field their full complement, it would have been difficult to suppress LIT given their mood.
LIT were without Tipperary attacker Seamus Callanan but clearly they are coping impressively with his absence. From the first whistle yesterday they hurled furiously with a display that bristled with energy, determination and style.
Throughout coach Davy Fitzgerald’s tenure with the college it is unlikely he would have witnessed a first-half performance to match yesterday’s, as his team sprinted into a 4-11 to 0-4 lead by the interval.
In defence, Conor Cooney and James McInerney were outstanding, Paul Browne and Paudie O’Brien dovetailed together wonderfully in midfield, while up front Willie Hyland, Bernard Gaffney and Seanie Tobin caused chaos.
The tone was set when Hyland lofted over the opening point after 37 seconds and by the fifth minute LIT had raised three more white flags. They then began focusing on plundering the goals that would kill this match off as a contest.
Gaffney collected the first in the sixth minute after Sean Collins had been repelled by a reflex save from Donal Tuohy. Collins then had the ball in the net himself in the 10th minute after Stephen Lambert split open the defence with an astute hand pass.
NUIG were reeling from that explosive start and it took them until the 18th minute to register their first score from play, courtesy of a Niall Burke point.
Pat Kelly in defence and John Conlon in attack valiantly attempted to revive their challenge but it was quickly drifting into a damage limitation exercise as LIT kept flooding forward, Paul Browne bundling in goal number three before Tobin added a fourth moments later.
The second half saw the match edge towards its inevitable conclusion. NUIG attempted to gain a foothold with Conlon, Mark Kelly and JP O’Connell to the fore.
However, LIT continued to apply huge pressure. Bernard Gaffney was a strong outlet for LIT in attack and he struck a bullet to the net past Tuohy in the 35th minute before goalling again with five minutes left.
Scorers for Limerick IT: B Gaffney 2-3 (3f); W Hyland 0-5 (1f); S Tobin 1-2; D Reale 1-1; S Collins 1-0; P Browne 1-1; S Lambert 0-2; P O’Brien, J McInerney (1f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for NUI Galway: C Morey 0-3 (two 65s, 1f); P Kelly (1f), J O’Gorman 0-2 each; J Conlon, N Burke 0-1 each.
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); D Reale (Limerick), S Collins (Clare), S Lambert (Galway); B Gaffney (Clare), S Tobin (Limerick), W Hyland (Laois). Subs: J Hayes (Limerick) for McInerney (53), B Glynn (Clare) for Browne (53), M Duggan (Clare) for Tobin (53), G Power (Limerick) for O’Brien (56), M McMahon (Galway) for Hyland (56).
D Tuohy (Clare); D Nash (Clare), P Gordon (Galway), S McCormack (Tipperary); M Keating (Galway), P Nihill (Clare), P Kelly (Clare); E Noone (Galway), D O’Donovan (Clare); J Conlon (Clare), N Burke (Galway), JP O’Connell (Galway); G Kelly (Galway), R Shanahan (Clare), C Morey (Clare).
Subs: S Glynn (Galway) for Noone (21), M Kelly (Galway) for Nihill (30), S Brennan (Kilkenny) for Shanahan (37), J O’Gorman (Offaly) for Kelly (37).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).