For the third year in succession, they faced GMIT on home soil and this was the most clear-cut victory they have enjoyed during that series of encounters.
A commanding first-half display by UCC set the tone. Paul Geaney and Johnny Ryan traded early points yet that converted free by Ryan was the solitary score that GMIT mustered in the first-half.
By the interval they were trailing by 0-8 to 0-1 and the level of assurance that UCC were demonstrating indicated that they were unlikely to cough up that advantage.
Long before the final whistle their focus had switched to the quarter-final stage and they will keep a close eye on events in St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield near Ennis this afternoon as IT Tralee and IT Sligo face off.
With 10 of last March’s victorious Sigerson Cup team in their ranks, and the good vibes from their run to December’s provincial club final still apparent, UCC were in buoyant form from the outset. The new faces to their side have not weakened their cause on this evidence.
Kerry senior Shane Enright, a member of the UCC team that reached the 2010 Sigerson decider, slotted in seamlessly to a defence that was excellent all night and restricted GMIT to just a single point from play courtesy of Eric Monahan in the 44th minute.
Goalkeeper Darren Farry was solid between the posts and Mark Reen was inventive at half-forward. Close to goal Paul Geaney and Gavin O’Grady maintained the incisive attacking form that had been integral to UCC’s acquisition of the Cork senior title last October.
GMIT travelled south with a side that was not as well-stocked with strength as their previous outfits. Donegal forward Stephen Griffin and Galway midfielder Paul Conroy has posed problems for UCC in previous meetings but they have departed the Sigerson Cup scene.
Here GMIT had strong performances in defence in Aonghus Tierney and Johnny Duane, who had both won All-Ireland U21 medals with Galway last year, while Ryan and Monahan did their best to make things happen up front.
But they simply faced opposition that were too superior in UCC. Kevin O’Driscoll was in electric form in the first half as he constantly raced forward from a midfield sector where Johnny Buckley’s aerial dominance was also a key factor.
O’Driscoll helped himself to three points in the first 20 minutes and with Peter Crowley rampaging forward from defence to raise another white flag, UCC were 0-5 to 0-1 ahead by the 20th minute.
By the interval they had stretched that gap to seven points and after classy efforts early in the second-half by Niall Daly and Geaney, a Gavan O’Grady free in the 42nd minute put UCC ahead 0-11 to 0-2. GMIT’s hopes were briefly raised courtesy of a brace by Monahan and a free by Ryan to leave them trailing by 0-11 to 0-5 with 12 minutes remaining.
However UCC cranked up the gears again and hit a rich vein of form in the finale.
Barry O’Driscoll almost found the net in the 50th minute after a flowing move but Brendan Walsh did well to smother his fierce strike.
Two minutes later they did raise a green flag courtesy of substitute Stephen O’Brien. Reen floated in a pass which was palmed perfectly into the path of O’Brien by Geaney and the Kenmare attacker rounded the goalkeeper before billowing the net. Late points by substitute Jamie O’Sullivan from Kilcummin, Mark Collins and Barry O’Driscoll rounded off a comprehensive victory for UCC.
Scorers for UCC: P Geaney, K O’Driscoll 0-3 each, S O’Brien 1-0, M Collins (0-1f), B O’Driscoll (0-2) 0-2 each, P Crowley, N Daly, M Reen, G O’Grady (0-1f), Jamie O’Sullivan (Kerry) 0-1 each.
Scorers for GMIT: J Ryan 0-3 (0-3f), E Monaghan 0-2 (0-1f).
UCC: D Farry (Cork); Jamie O’Sullivan (Cork), E O’Mahony (Cork), S Enright (Kerry); P Crowley (Kerry), N Daly (Roscommon), B Daly (Cork); K O’Driscoll (Cork), J Buckley (Kerry); M Reen (Kerry), M Collins (Cork), JB Spillane (Kerry); G O’Grady (Kerry), B O’Driscoll (Cork), P Geaney (Kerry).
Subs: S O’Brien (Kerry) for O’Grady (51), S Beston (Cork) for Reen (58), Jamie O’Sullivan (Kerry) for Geaney (60).
GMIT: B Walsh (Mayo); M Kelly (Mayo), A Tierney (Galway), D Lee (Galway); C Sweeney (Galway), J Duane(Galway), J McLoughlin (Cavan); S Boyle (Mayo), JJ Greaney (Galway); N Prenty (Mayo), J Ryan (Galway), E Monaghan (Galway); A Thompson (Donegal), P Sweeney (Galway), D Clabby (Roscommon).
Subs: A Walsh (Mayo) for Boyle (25), G Kelly (Clare) for M Kelly (28), S Kavanagh (Galway) for Prenty (41), J Cafferty (Mayo) for Greaney (41), D Quinn (Mayo) for Sweeney (52).
Referee: K O’Brien (Tipperary).