The Cork college travelled north with the burden of favouritism on their backs but they never looked like the stronger team on a night when AIT’s greater hunger and more cohesive teamwork was apparent throughout.
The prospect of an all-Cork semi-final between UCC and Cork IT was on the cards before the game threw in but the late withdrawal of Dónal Óg Hodnett was a blow to the Cork students and their total of three scores from play illustrated the difficulty they had in creating and converting chances.
Westmeath’s James Dolan was sacrificed from his usual attacking position at the edge of the square and he was instead asked to play a man-marking job on CIT star Ciarán Sheehan. Dolan held Sheehan to one score, a second half goal that was largely down to a mistake by Gary Connaughton, while fellow Westmeath panellists Ger Egan and Kieran Martin registered three points each and covered every blade of grass.
Cork IT were held to one score, a Kevin Hallissey free, in a one-sided first half. They also kicked six wides in that half hour as the AIT defensive unit put their opponents under huge pressure. Athlone IT kicked six points during the same spell and they continued that dominance into the second half, stretching their lead out further to six points, 0-8 to 0-2. CIT substitute Michael Vaughan kicked a fine score within 30 seconds of his introduction and when Sheehan deflected Brian O’Regan’s diagonal ball past Connaughton in the 43rd minute, it looked as if Cork IT were well positioned to pull off a smash and grab victory.
Sheehan had a chance to reduce the deficit further but hit his shot tamely into the keeper’s hands and Athlone IT broke down the field and after great work from Egan and captain Frank Burke, James McGivney struck a vital point to turn the tide decisively.
AIT stepped up the intensity for the closing stages and CIT’s misery was compounded when Peter Daly was dismissed for a second bookable offence after getting involved in a dispute at midfield.
Scorers for AIT: G Egan 0-3 (3fs); K Martin 0-3 (2fs); F Burke 0-2; A Coffey, J McGivney, D Queeney 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork IT: C Sheehan 1-0; Kevin Hallissey 0-2 (1f); M Vaughan 0-2 (1f).
ATHLONE IT: G Connaughton (Westmeath); E Kerins (Galway), K Clarke (Cavan), C O’Brien (Galway); L Murphy (Cavan), T Rahill (Meath), J Dolan (Westmeath); C Duggan (Galway), G Egan (Westmeath); Peter Masterson (Longford), K Martin (Westmeath), A Coffey (Westmeath); J McGivney (Longford), A Stone (Westmeath), F Burke (Galway).
Subs: D Maleady (Offaly) for O’Brien, D Queeney (Meath) for Masterson, A Caul (Dublin) for McGivney.
CORK IT (Cork unless stated): A O’Donoghue; P Kilkenny (Kerry), M Griffin (Kerry), N Galvin; C Lyons, S O’Donoghue, P Daly; B O’Sullivan (Kerry), J Walsh (Kerry); Ciarán Sheehan, S Finn, D Leahy (Tipperary); K Hallissey, P Joy (Kerry), J O’Connor.
Subs: D Treacy (Limerick) for O’Sullivan, B O’Regan for Lyons, M Vaughan for Leahy, D O’Sullivan (Kerry) for Finn.
Referee: Derek Fahy (Longford)