At the final whistle in Páirc Uí Rinn, UCC had two points to spare over St Nicholas and their victory in this fourth round clash was merited. They had to withstand a late St Nicholas assault before the relief of success was assured. Robert Brosnan, who excelled in the scoring stakes once more for St Nicholas, blasted a stinging drive towards goal with his side trailing by three points but the ball travelled just over the crossbar.
That cut the gap for St Nicholas, yet their hopes of staging a comeback in injury-time were short-lived as the final whistle blew soon afterwards. They had legitimate complaints that there was not sufficient injury-time played, but UCC played the smarter football and summoned the key scores when required.
UCC began the match with only eight of the team that defeated Carbery back in April and a number of players had endured a punishing schedule over the weekend, with club championship games on their agenda. Their ultimate success was admirable in those circumstances.
St Michael’s duo Eoghan Buckley and Will Kennedy made light of the fact that they had been in action for their club yesterday afternoon by combining for a sixth minute goal that set UCC on their way. Buckley did well to keep the ball in play on the left wing and sent over a low cross that Kennedy side-footed to the net.
And three minutes later, UCC got a further fillip when Johnny Buckley intercepted a loose St Nicholas pass and played Rory O’Hagan into space. The Fermoy man finished emphatically to the net to send UCC into a 2-0 to 0-0 lead.
Apart from the benefits of that early goal blast, UCC were also thankful to an outstanding display by midfielder Johnny Buckley throughout. The Dr Crokes man dominated his sector and UCC were constantly able to rely on his ability to claim primary possession. He also floated over a wonderful left-footed point during a key phase towards the finish.
UCC’s defence was also stout with Martin Hickey and Peter Crowley in resilient form while Roscommon player Niall Daly raided forward from his centre-back berth for two vital points.
St Nicholas, who fielded Cork senior hurling duo Stephen McDonnell and Patrick Horgan from the off, grew into the match as it progressed. They overcame that shaky start when they leaked goals to only trail 2-2 to 0-5 at the break. Robert Brosnan was accurate from placed ball opportunities and he shot three points in the last five minutes of the opening period. UCC made a critical burst after the break when they fashioned some well-worked points and moved 2-5 to 0-6 ahead by the 34th minute.
Then St Nicholas started controlling the game. Substitute Evan Kearney made a huge impression with his bright and inventive play, and after he bagged a point, Graham Callanan fisted home a crucial goal in the 44th minute.
Then, in the 51st minute, Kearney sprinted through the defence before being hauled down and Robert Brosnan slotted home the resultant penalty with confidence as St Nicholas moved into a 2-8 to 2-7 lead.
But UCC’s response was decisive. Daithí Casey swept over a pair of frees, Buckley hit that beauty from play and Daly struck another to book their last eight slot.
Scorers for UCC: R O’Hagan 1-1, W Kennedy 1-0, D Casey 0-3 (0-3f), M Griffin, N Daly 0-2 each, S Kiely, G O’Grady (0-1f), J Buckley 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Nicholas: R Brosnan 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-4f, 0-1 ’45), G Callanan 1-0, David Brosnan, E Kearney, B O’Donovan 0-1 each.
UCC: B Corcoran (St Mary’s, Cork); M Hickey (Carrignavar, Cork), P Crowley (Laune Rangers, Kerry), M Galvin (Ballymacelligott, Kerry); G Ryan (Rockwell Rovers, Tipperary), N Daly (Padraig Pearses, Roscommon), S Kiely (Macroom, Cork); J O’Sullivan (Kilcummin, Kerry), J Buckley (Dr Crokes, Kerry); M Griffin (Na Gaeil, Kerry), D Casey (Dr Crokes, Kerry), B Coughlan (Kinsale, Cork); R O’Hagan (Fermoy, Cork), W Kennedy (St Michael’s, Cork), E Buckley (St Michael’s, Cork).
Subs: G O’Grady (Glenbeigh-Glencar, Kerry) for E Buckley (half-time), F O’Leary (Bandon, Cork) for Coughlan (53).
ST NICHOLAS: D Byrne; C Spain, D Óg O’Donovan, G Moylan; S McDonnell, T Spain, D Cunningham; P O’Brien, R Brosnan; G Callanan, David Brosnan, S Kennefick; B O’Donovan, D Goggin, P Horgan.
Subs: D Cronin for D Brosnan (41), E Kearney for O’Donovan (41), Dean Brosnan for Goggin (57).
Referee: Conor Lane (Banteer).