CIT hurled with great cohesion and purpose and, in the end, UCD simply couldn’t cope with their pace, power, and clinical finishing despite hurling manfully themselves for the hour.
Their biggest problem was they were heavily reliant on the free-taking of Noel McGrath to keep them in the contest, whereas the Cork college had multiple attacking threats in the shape of men like Colin Fennelly, Paudie O’Sullivan, David Drake, and Tommy Quaid.
An early Fennelly goal got them off to the perfect start when he tore through the heart of the UCD defence on one of those trademark solo-runs and flicked the ball to the net when it looked like he’d lost control. UCD didn’t drop their heads, but for all their effort their opponents were looking that bit classier and sharper and moved 1-4 to 0-3 ahead.
It was becoming apparent though that, for all their slick interplay and crisp hurling, Cork IT weren’t going to have it all their own way. When you have a formidable man like UCD’s Dave Billings roaring at you from the sideline, you tend not to let your efforts flag and thanks mainly to sheer doggedness and hard work, the Dublin students fought their way back into the match in the final 15 minutes of the half. Their forwards were winning dirty ball and showing they had some bottle by running in straight lines at the CIT defence, who were forced into conceding frees that were meat and drink to a man like Noel McGrath.
Four from him and a fine point on the run by Domhnal Fox, with nothing in reply, meant that UCD went in at the break 0-8 to 1-4 ahead and gave their fancied opponents food for thought.
Like all good teams, CIT absorbed the lesson and found the right answers. There was more energy and invention to their play in the second half and, after posting a quickfire sequence of four unanswered points, never let the initiative slip.
In the final 15 minutes, they hurled wonderfully to pick UCD off on the break, with Drake and substitute Padraig Gould scoring the sort of classy points you normally only see in championship hurling at the height of the summer. Were UCD not such a hard-working and determined outfit, they would have been blown away by the Cork students, but any glimmer of hope they had of summoning up an unlikely comeback was crushed when Noel McGrath’s fiercely struck 25-yard free was deflected over the bar.
And so Cork IT march into the quarter-finals and, on this showing, it will take a really good team to beat them.
Scorers for Cork IT: T Quaid 0-5 (3f), C Fennelly 1-1, D Drake 0-4, P O’Sullivan 0-3, P Gould, J Coughlan (1f) both 0-2.
UCD scorers: N McGrath 0-11 (9f), A Smith, D Fox, J Gilligan and C Allis all 0-1.
CIT: K Roche (Cork); B Withers (Cork), SMcDonnell (Cork), S Daniels (Waterford); S White (Cork), L McLoughlin (Cork), M Ellis (Cork); J Coughlan (Cork), M O’Sullivan (Cork); J Cronin (Cork), D Drake (Cork), C Casey (Cork); C Fennelly (Kilkenny), P O’Sullivan (Cork), T Quaid (Limerick).
Subs: P Gould for C Casey (47), P O’Connor (Clare) for M O’Sullivan (54)
UCD: J Ryan (Galway); D Nash (Clare), M O’Hanlon (Wexford), J Dougan (Dublin); O Gough (Dublin), C Allis (Limerick), S Norton (Kilkenny); D Fox (Galway), N McGrath (Tipperary); A Smith (Galway), D Plunkett (Dublin), C Kenny (Kilkenny), D O’Sullivan (Waterford), W Walsh (Kilkenny), G Sinnott (Wexford).
Subs: J Gilligan (Dublin) for A Smyth (43).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).