Their place in this afternoon’s final was secured after a fierce battle with 2009 champions UCC. LIT’s performance in the first-half was critical in shaping their victory. They led 0-11 to 0-6 at the interval and that advantage was largely generated by the five successive points they slung over between the 24th and 28th minutes.
LIT’s nimble attackers Stephen Lambert and Donie Reale showed an eye for a score from the start as they profited from perceptive passes. Another fine score from Reale pushed LIT into a 0-4 to 0-3 advantage and the likes of Paul Browne and Paudie O’Brien were hoovering up possession in the middle third. At full-forward Sean Tobin was the perfect focal point for their attacks with his clever movement and his hand was a magnet for deliveries. LIT’s lead could have been further embellished when Bernard Gaffney unleashed a stinging shot in the 15th minute but Darren McCarthy made a fine block.
Yet, as the half wore on, Gaffney’s influence grew. The Clare native, who featured in the colours of Cavan in the Lory Meagher Cup last summer, has enjoyed an excellent Fitzgibbon campaign. His marksmanship from placed balls continued to be flawless as he converted seven frees and also added a majestic point from play in the first-half. His input was central to establishing that commanding 0-11 to 0-6 lead for LIT at the break.
Gaffney’s contribution was magnified by the three placed ball opportunities UCC spurned in the third quarter. Those misses proved costly as they hampered a wonderful second-half fightback by UCC. In the first-half they relied on William Egan and Dean Brosnan to drive their challenge but in the second-half they had strong performers all over the field.
A few astute tactical switches paid off for them too. Michael Cahill moved on to successfully police LIT danger man Sean Tobin; Phillip Mahony was drafted in to lend support to the midfield fight while Luke O’Farrell prospered when he was brought out to centre-forward as he unleashed his pace to break clear of the LIT rearguard. A brace of frees by Paul Haughney and one apiece by Graeme Mulcahy and Brian O’Sullivan left UCC trailing by just 0-11 to 0-10 in the 40th minute.
UCC’s hopes were hit by those wides from frees and LIT settled their challenge with a series of relieving points from Reale, Gaffney and Browne. By the 48th minute LIT possessed a 0-15 to 0-11 advantage and looked poised to strike for the finish line. But UCC kept charging and got their reward in the 50th minute when they pounced for a goal. Kevin Moran gained possession and combined with Dean Brosnan to set up O’Farrell who smashed a fabulous shot to the net.
Shane Bourke clipped over a point soon after and UCC had gained parity at 1-12 to 0-15. However, UCC were unable to forge ahead with Lambert, Willie Hyland and Gaffney calming LIT nerves with key points. Dean Brosnan capped a storming 60-yard run upfield with a point that trimmed LIT’s lead to two but despite pressing hard in the closing exchanges, UCC could not draw closer.
Scorers for Limerick IT: B Gaffney 0-8 (seven frees); D Reale, S Lambert 0-3 each; W Hyland 0-2; P Browne, S Tobin 0-1 each.
Scorers for UCC: L O’Farrell 1-0; S Bourke 0-3; W Egan (one free), K Keehan (one free), D Brosnan, P Haughney (two frees) 0-2 each; B O’Sullivan, G Mulcahy 0-1 each.
LIMERICK IT: M Ryan (Tipperary); E Glynn (Clare), C Cowan (Tipperary), C Cooney (Clare); J Hayes (Limerick), J McInerney (Clare), J O’Keeffe (Tipperary); S Collins (Clare), P Browne (Limerick); S Lambert (Galway), W Hyland (Laois), P O’Brien (Limerick); B Gaffney (Clare), S Tobin (Limerick), D Reale (Limerick). Sub: C Madden (Limerick) for Reale (57).
UCC: D McCarthy (Cork); C O’Sullivan (Cork), P O’Loughlin (Limerick), M Cahill (Tipperary); J Nagle (Cork), K Moran (Waterford), W Egan (Cork); S Corry (Cork), B O’Sullivan (Limerick); S Bourke (Tipperary), K Keehan (Galway), D Brosnan (Cork); D Honan (Clare), L O’Farrell (Cork), G Mulcahy (Limerick). Subs: P Haughney (Cork) for Keehan (half-time), P O’Mahony (Waterford) for Corry (half-time), E Martin (Wexford) for Honan (56).
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois).