Clare All Stars Conor Ryan and Podge Collins returned and heavily influenced the outcome.
“It’s great to have those guys on your team,” remarked manager Brian Lohan afterwards. “The performances from both were absolutely outstanding.”
Ryan acted as the stopper of Waterford IT’s attacks and chief distributor to his own forward line while adding two points from play, one free and a 65. Collins soldiered unselfishly at number 11 and threw in some audacious tricks and flicks.
Ten different players chipped in for the Limerick students and 2-22 of their final total came from play. On the left flank of the defence, Limerick’s Thomas Ryan launched three points, Padraic Walsh (Kilkenny) fired four from midfield and Tipp forward Tommy Heffernan was unerring.
The close proximity of next Sunday’s semi-final against Tipperary to their Fitzgibbon Cup opener on January 30 raised alarm bells for the former Clare full back.
“Both teams are getting closer to the Fitzgibbon. I don’t know is progressing to the next level of the Waterford Crystal, given it is fixed for within the week of the Fitzgibbon, is what we really we want. That’s going to be difficult enough to manage.”
The unavailability of Waterford quartet Stephen O’Keeffe, Pauric Mahony, Jake Dillon and Stephen Roche along with Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy hindered WIT’s chances before throw in but Thomas Hamill got them moving within 12 seconds. In a hectic opening half, Harry Kehoe and Liam McGrath dominated scoring for the hosts as they established a 0-11 to 0-8 lead after 27 minutes. For UL, Conor Ryan had fired a hat-trick of points from distance but Cathal Malone was the only forward to make headway with three of his own.
That all changed before the interval as they shot 1-5 in the space of eight minutes. Martin Boran passed to Tommy Heffernan on 34 minutes and he rippled the top corner as UL led 1-13 to 0-12. Raiding midfielder Padraic Walsh resumed the shoot-out within eight seconds. Podge Collins was left isolated in front of goal on 39 minutes and Tom O’Brien picked him out to open up an eight point gap (2-15 to 0-13). Johnny Hayes raised a green flag at the other end almost immediately after a Cormac Heffernan assist but the Waterford students were outgunned thereafter.
Walsh helped himself to three second-half points, Thomas Ryan stepped forward for another three and Tommy Heffernan continued to punish from frees. With 10 minutes left, a triangle between Conor Ryan, Walsh and Collins was finished by the latter who fooled his marker with a cheeky sidestep.
Scorers for UL: T Heffernan 1-8 (6fs), P Collins 1-1, C Ryan (1f, 1 65), P Walsh (0-4 each), T Ryan, B Stapleton, C Malone (0-3 each), B Maher (0-2), J Forde, M Ryan (0-1 each).
Scorers for WIT: H Kehoe (0-8, 7fs), J Hayes (1-2), L McGrath, C Kenny (0-3 each), M Gaffney, T Hamill, A Kenny, M Power (0-1 each).
UL: S Hassett (Tipperary); D Quinn (Tipperary), J Sheehan (Cork), J Browne (Clare); C Ryan (Clare), D Morrissey (Limerick), T Ryan (Limerick); B Maher (Tipperary), P Walsh (Kilkenny); C Malone (Clare), P Collins (Clare), B Stapleton (Tipperary); T O’Brien (Limerick), M Boran (Kilkenny), T Heffernan (Kilkenny).
Subs: J Forde (Tippy) for Boran (47), M O’Neill (Clare) for Malone (53), M Ryan (Limerick) for O’Brien (53), K O’Brien (Limerick) for Stapleton (56), P Ryan (Tipp) for Browne (64).
WIT: K Hammersley (Waterford); G Teehan (Kilkenny), P Gahan (Kilkenny), J Maher (Waterford); T Hamill (Tipperary), J O’Dwyer (Tipperary), S Murphy (Wexford); C Kenny (Kilkenny), J Langton (Kilkenny); J Hayes (Kilkenny), H Kehoe (Wexford), A Kenny (Wexford); L McGrath (Tipperary), M Gaffney (Kilkenny), M Power (Kilkenny).
Subs: C Heffernan (Waterford) for L McGrath (ht), T Fox (Tipperary) for Gaffney (ht), L O’Loughlin (Clare) for Hamill (58), A McGrath (Tipperary) for Langton (52), L Hickey (Kilkenny) for Maher (64).
Referee: J Sexton (Cork).