Champions UL pushed hard

Holders, University of Limerick were pushed all the way by a plucky St Pat’s team that scrapped for every ball in this Fitzgibbon Cup game at the Na Fianna grounds, Dublin yesterday.

The student teachers were the better team for most of the first half and established a 1-3 to 0-2 lead when accurate free-taker, Niall Arthur, smashed a 21-yard free to the net. It was well deserved for there was more energy and purpose to their play and they were coping far better with the poor underfoot conditions than UL, who tended to overelaborate.

Slowly, UL asserted themselves thanks mainly to the energy and accuracy of centre-forward Cyril Donnellan who clipped over three fine points and, by half-time, they had managed to draw level.

Some of the good was taken from that positive response though by an injury to Donnellan that forced him off shortly before the break. His replacement Kieran Morris only lasted a couple of minutes himself before he also succumbed to injury.

You expected a half-time tongue-lashing from their increasingly frustrated looking trainer, Brian Lohan, would have ensured a much improved display from UL after the break. But again they struggled to hurl to their full potential as Pat’s defended tenaciously.

Centre-back Martin Quilty was a colossus and their full-back line hurled their hearts out to drive clearance after clearance. UL full-forward Conor McGrath was the only player who seemed capable of getting any change out of the stubborn St Pat’s defence, and a sweet point from play and some steady free-taking meant UL were just about keeping their noses in front.

They finally established a decent lead when Bill Beckett lashed home a goal that put them five up and though St Pat’s responded with two fine points, they never really looked like scoring the goal they needed to claim a share of the spoils. Another free from McGrath settled any jangling UL nerves and sealed the win, but if they’re to successfully defend their title, they’ll need to improve on this showing.

“We struggled to get any real pattern to our play,” admitted UL manager Ger Cunningham afterwards. The pitch was more suited to football than hurling and the lads are still getting used to playing with one another. But you’d have to give a lot of credit to St Pat’s for hurling as well as they did.”

UL scorers: C McGrath 0-9 (6f), B Beckett 1-0, C Donnellan 0-3, L Markham, J Coen and J Gallagher all 0-1.

St. Pat’s: N Arthur 1-8 (1-7f), T Breen 0-2, K Nimmo 0-1.

UL: T Lowry (Tipp); P Stapleton (Tipp), M Walsh (Kilkenny), K Fox (Tipp); L Ryan (Kilkenny), P Maher (Tipp), M Walsh (Kilkenny); B Bugler (Clare), L Markham (Clare); B Beckett (Kilkenny), C Donnellan (Galway), J Coen (Galway); J Regan (Galway), C McGrath (Clare), P Kelly (Tipperary).

Subs: K Morris (Tipp) for C Donnellan (28), J Gallagher (Tipp) for K Morris (ht), M Heffernan (Tipp) for J Regan (49), D Walton (Kilkenny) for J Coen (60)

ST. PAT’S: S Murphy (Kilkenny); D Glynn (Galway), D Wafer (Kilkenny), D Byrne (Wexford); N Ring (Dublin), M Quilty (Dublin), I Duggan (Kilkenny); L Ryan (Kilkenny), P Kehoe (Carlow); T Breen (Kilkenny), M Bergin (Kilkenny), L French (Wexford); K Nimmo (Wexford), C Maher (Kilkenny), N Arthur (Clare).

Subs: D Wright (Wexford) for L French (45), DM Carroll (Wexford) for C Maher (55)

Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).

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