14-man UL stand firm as CIT rally just falls shy

UL remain on course to claim their first Fitzgibbon Cup title since 2003 after displaying the requisite grit to overcome a battling Cork IT in yesterday’s first semi-final at the Waterford IT Sports Campus in Carriganore.
14-man UL stand firm as CIT rally just falls shy

Similar to their quarter-final victory over UCD, UL were made to work ferociously hard before emerging. This game was in marked contrast to the 2009 last four clash between the sides, when UL triumphed by a handsome 12-point margin. CIT were in more resolute form on this occasion as they opened the game promisingly and never allowed UL to surge clear on the score board.

The match looked to have taken a pivotal turn in CIT’s direction in the 48th minute when Offaly captain Shane Dooley was shown a red card for UL after an off-the-ball challenge on CIT defender Eoin Dillon. Being forced to play the finale with 14 men meant UL’s 0-12 to 0-10 advantage suddenly looked precarious. However at a critical stage they increased the intensity and were indebted to a sterling defensive display, typified by captain Kieran Joyce as well as his half-back line colleagues PJ Delaney and Brendan Bugler.

The CIT attack had minimal space in which to work with and although Colin Fennelly weaved through for a pair of stylish points and Tony Murphy knocked over a free, they never looked like threatening UL goalkeeper Thomas Lowry.

Despite operating with a player less in attack, UL still got rewards for their raids downfield in the last 10 minutes. Brian Carroll, Patrick Cronin and Bill Beckett all overcame the serious pressure being exerted by the CIT backline to register precious points.

Indeed UL could have completely killed off the CIT challenge in the 53rd minute only for goalkeeper Tommy Quaid to produce a miraculous save to keep out Tommy Connors goalbound drive.

CIT’s regrets at their ultimate defeat will stem from a first-half performance where they funnelled plenty ball towards their attack but could not manage to translate that superiority into scores. They started the game in a hugely encouraging fashion with the early exchanges proving they were capable of matching the competition favourites. CIT displayed an admirable work ethic around the pitch and interfered with UL’s short puck out strategy. That was best encapsulated in the 9th minute when Ryan Clifford’s perseverance resulted him in robbing the UL defence of possession and lofting over.

That score was directly after a fine effort from his Newtownshandrum colleague Michael Bowles and had the effect of pushing CIT into a 0-4 to 0-3 lead. They were also benefiting from the influence of midfielder Lorcan McLoughlin who put in a brilliant shift over the hour. But building on that opening proved tricky for CIT. They continued to engineer opportunities yet Tony Murphy saw two efforts from 20-yard frees repelled by the UL defence and Bowles was unable to get a clean strike from another opening.

UL’s shooting had been faulty in the opening period of the game as they chalked up six wides in the first 12 minutes, but matters gradually improved. Corner-forwards Kieran Morris and Andrew Quinn notched excellent scores and despite an important late point by Colm Casey, it was CIT who trailed 0-8 to 0-6 at the interval.

CIT’s recovery operation began quickly in the second-half when Patrick O’Connor fired over a beauty from the sideline and when the Clare player converted a 42nd minute free, they were up by 0-10 to 0-9. But as the match descended into a dogfight, UL’s power and strength came to bear while their defence were in imperious form. The only cloud on their horizon was the dismissal of sharpshooter Dooley and he will be a significant loss for the decider.

Scorers for UL: S Dooley 0-5 (four frees); K Morris 0-3 (one free); B Carroll, B Beckett 0-2 each; B Bugler, P Cronin, A Quinn 0- 1 each.

Scorers for Cork IT: R Clifford 0-4 (three frees); P O’Connor (one free), C Casey, C Fennelly 0-2 each; L McLoughlin, M Bowles, T Murphy (one free) 0-1 each.

UL: T Lowry (Tipperary); P Stapleton (Tipperary), M Walsh (Kilkenny), S Hickey (Limerick); PJ Delaney (Kilkenny), B Bugler (Clare), K Joyce (Kilkenny); P Cronin (Cork), D Burke (Galway); B Carroll (Offaly), B Beckett (Kilkenny), S Dooley (Offaly); K Morris (Tipperary), P Kelly (Tipperary), A Quinn (Clare). Subs: T Connors (Waterford) for Kelly (41), P Murphy (Tipperary) for Quinn (53).

CORK IT: T Quaid (Limerick); J O’Callaghan (Cork), E Dillon (Cork), J Herlihy (Cork); S McDonald (Cork), R Cashman (Cork), C Leahy (Cork); L McLoughlin (Cork), P O’Connor (Clare); M Bowles (Cork), C Casey (Cork), T Murphy (Cork); M O’Sullivan (Cork), C Fennelly (Kilkenny), R Clifford (Cork). Subs: B Weathers (Cork) for Herlihy (25), P Gould (Cork) for Clifford (46), S White (Cork) for O’Connor (53), S Daniels (Waterford) for Leahy (55).

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).

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