Two first-half goals from impressive full-forward Patrick Curtin ended the game as a contest but UCC’s top forward, Conor Cox of Listowel Emmets who ended with six points, is also a Kingdom prospect and one of seven in the college’s starting 15.
“Conor played well,” said Fitzmaurice after the game. “So did all of the UCC lads who are in with us. I know Conor kicked a share of scores and we know well the quality he possesses.
“He is going to have a busy schedule now, between the Sigerson with UCC, he is involved with Darragh [Ó Sé), with the U21s and he is in and out with us as well so I suppose for the next while it’s going to be about balancing commitments, to ensure that he is not over extended at any stage.”
As might be expected of a team with Sigerson commitments looming, UCC were sharper out of the blocks and ran up a three-point lead courtesy of a Cox free, Gavin O’Grady (45) and a fine Brian Coughlan effort from play.
Kerry were slow to get into their stride but Darran O’Sullivan’s opener, a free from wide right, sparked his team-mates to action. Michael Geaney and Paddy Curtin levelled matters and Paul Geaney edged Kerry ahead.
Kerry struck for the first goal at the end of the first quarter, Kieran O’Leary feeding Curtin, who played a one-two with Paul Geaney before finishing emphatically.
The Kingdom radar then let them down, with four consecutive wides and Darran O’Sullivan hitting the woodwork, but Curtin hit his second goal on the half-hour.
Cox added two points for UCC but two Geaney points either side of a Johnny Buckley effort left it 2-7 to 0-5 at the half.
The second half fizzled out, with heavy underfoot conditions taking a toll on UCC. Kerry hit some good points to take their total to 2-12, while Cox started and ended UCC’s scoring. But the biggest cheer of the afternoon came when Kieran Donaghy was substituted, the PA announcer wishing him well in his wedding next weekend.
In his absence Fitzmaurice will shuffle the deck against Limerick in next Sunday’s semi-final. “Anthony Maher will be back in with us next weekend and the Crokes lads are going back training with Crokes this week, but there will be a few of them available to us for the game next weekend, if we want them.”
“It’ll be a more physical test, but in fairness to UCC they were quite physical in the second half and they have a share of pretty senior players around that are well conditioned, the likes of Niall Daly and JB Spillane, and they had a couple of big men like Peter Acheson who have played senior inter-county, and Peter Crowley.”
Scorers for Kerry: P Curtin 2-2, P Geaney 0-3 (1f), J Buckley 0-2, M Geaney, D O’Sullivan (f), K O’Leary, M O’Donoghue and BJ Keane 0-1 each
Scorers for UCC: C Cox 0-6 (3fs), G O’Grady 0-2 (1 45), B Coughlan, P Acheson
KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, M Moloney, F Fitzgerald; J Lyne, J Sherwood, K Young; K Donaghy, J Buckley; M Geaney, D O’Sullivan, M O’Donoghue; K O’Leary (c), P Curtin, P Geaney.
Subs: BJ Keane for D O’Sullivan (ht), T Ó Sé for Fitzgerald (50), P O’Connor for O’Leary (50), A O’Mahony for O’Donoghue (57), A Garnett for Donaghy (64).
UCC: S Mellett (Carrigaline/Cork); J O’Sullivan (Bishopstown/Cork), P Galvin (Ballymacelligot/Kerry), F McNamara (Austin Stacks/Kerry); P Crowley (Laune Rangers/Kerry), N Daly (Padraig Pearses/Roscommon) T Clancy (Fermoy/Cork); P Acheson (Moyle Rovers/Tipperary), D O’Sullivan (Dingle/Kerry); K O’Driscoll (Tadhg McCarthaigh/Cork), B Coughlan (Kinsale/Cork), JB Spillane (Castlegregory/Kerry); C Cox (Listowel Emmets/Kerry), E Buckley (St Michael’s/Cork), G O’Grady (Glenbeigh-Glencar/Kerry).
Subs: M Reen (Rathmore) for Buckley (53), P Lucey (Legion) for Coughlan (59).
Referee: D O’Mahony (Tipperary).