All credit to UCC for fashioning a late, late, victory through last minute points by Jack Ahern and Paudie Prendergast. But spare a thought for Waterford IT who staged a thrilling second-half comeback that looked to have sealed a dramatic extra-time win, only to have it snatched away at the death.
UCC dominated the opening half, and their 0-12 to 1-5 interval lead didn’t nearly reflect the extent of their superiority.
In fact, WIT failed to score from play in that opening moiety, relying in the main on a 1-4 contribution from full-forward Rhys Clarke, the goal coming from a 20-metre free in the 10th minute.
In stark contrast, UCC rifled over some delightful points from play, with three of them coming from Conor Lehane. The Midleton player was instrumental and it was his extra-time goal — following up on his saved penalty that helped swing the tie.
Killeedy club man, Jack Ahern, was another who delivered a huge performance and he ended the game with a tally of 0-14.
WIT enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the second period and they began to assume ascendancy in most areas of the field.
Tipperary’s Liam McGrath, along with Gavin O’Brien, Rhys Clarke and Eoin Ryan all had big inputs and together they posed problems aplenty for a UCC defence that had standout performances from Damien Cahalane, Paudie Prendergast, and Diarmuid Lester.
The game had developed into an absorbing battle, yet it was just four minutes from time before another pointed free by Clarke put WIT ahead for the first time since the opening 30 seconds. Ahern and Eoin Finn responded for the Cork students before another pointed free by Clarke deep into added time forced 20 minutes of extra-time.
The pace and tempo never slackened with WIT just about shading the first 10-minute period, which ended with them deservedly leading by 1-20 to 0-21.
Lehane’s goal would, ultimately, be crucial.
Soon after sub James Lawton quickly tacked on a point and there was a clear goal separating the sides.
WIT sub Dylan Murphy banged home an equalising goal from close range. But the final say was UCC’s in the form of late points by Ahern from play and Prendergast from a 65’ to set up a decider with UL.
Scorers for UCC: J. Ahern (0-14, 0-10 frees); C. Lehane (1-3); C. Murphy (0-2); P. Prendergast (0-2, 1 65); E. Finn (0-2); M. Sugrue, J. Lawton (0-1).
Scorers for Waterford IT: R. Clarke (1-10, 1-9 frees); D. Murphy (1-1); G. O’Brien (0-3); E. Ryan (0-2); S. Roche, L. McGrath (f), J. Hayes, M. Houlihane (0-1).
UCC: N. Woods (Clare); C. Dooley (Cork), A. Hayes (Cork), D. Lester (Cork); D. Cahalane (Cork), P. Prendergast (Waterford), K. Burke (Cork); E. Finn (Cork), C. Murphy (Cork); S. O’Keeffe (Cork), J. Mulcahy (Limerick), C. Lehane (Cork); P. Deasy (Cork), M. Sugrue (Cork). J. Ahern (Limerick).
Subs: M. Howard for Deasy (37 mins); S. Ryan for Hayes (39); M. Fitzgibbon for O’Keeffe (49); A. Costelloe for Ryan (55); B. Lawton for Mulcahy (66).
WATERFORD IT: D. Walsh (Kilkenny); S. O’Neill (Waterford), J. Whelan (Galway), L. Hickey (Kilkenny); D. Ahearne (Waterford); T. Hamill (Tipperary), G. Teehan (Kilkenny); S. Roche (Waterford), M. Houlihan (Kilkenny); G. O’Brien (Waterford), J. Bergin (Tipperary), J. Hayes (Kilkenny); E. Ryan (Offaly), R. Clarke (Wexford), L. McGrath (Tipperary).
Subs: D. Murphy (Wexford) for Ahern (HT); J. Roche for Bergin (HT); K. Cahill for S. Roche (45).
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois).