While the last rites were never administered — the second-half turnaround happened too early for that — there were certainly some murmurs as UCD engineered a five-point lead, 1-11 to 0-9, shortly after half-time.
Thereafter, however, they found themselves faced with an onslaught from a revitalised UCC, who managed to outscore the visitors by 1-6 to 0-1 during the crucial midway period. Even so, a pair of important saves by UCC goalkeeper Darren McCarthy, from Walter Walsh and John Power, were crucial in preventing the contest from slipping away from them.
Captain James Barry excelled in the critical period when UCC got on top. It was his goal which opened up a 1-15 to 1-12 lead, but there was an element of luck attached to it.
However, that score was preceded by four points, one of which he scored while he was involved in the preamble to the other three.
His leadership — and rousing long-range point — helped to bring about a general increase in performance from UCC, who closed out the game in a confident manner.
“UCD are a good side and we were lucky to still be in the game at half-time,” said UCC manager Eddie Enright.
“They missed a few goal chances in the second half and we got the break, but once the game opened out I thought our hurling came through. We created a lot of space and got some good scores.
“We were missing a lot today but the panel came through, we’ll probably need that at the [finals] weekend.”
Aside from Waterford’s Darragh Fives, who hasn’t hurled since the turn of the year, and Seamus Harnedy, making his first appearance of the campaign, UCC also had to do without Cork star Conor Lehane, who has been their talisman.
While Willie Griffin, who finished with 11 points, shone throughout and Alan Cadogan was a handful for the UCD defence, in the first half in particular the home side found it difficult to cope with their opponents’ strong pressure and greater physical size.
Cillian Brennan at midfield was good for UCC and Jack Guiney excellent from frees, while Walsh and Power linked on more than one occasion. They looked to have combined to give Guiney an easy goal chance in the 25th minute but play was called back for a 20m free.
Guiney opted to go for goal and though his effort was repelled, less than two minutes later they had a green flag as Patrick Murphy pulled his effort home after the ball broke.
He followed that up with a point to make it 1-9 to 0-7 and though Griffin responded before half-time for UCC, they knew at the interval that they were in a game.
When UCD began the second half in confident fashion to reopen the five-point advantage, the writing looked to be on the wall, especially as McCarthy had to make that pair of saves.
Dan McCormack twice pointed to give UCC hope, though, and they drove on from there.
Scorers for UCC: W Griffin 0-12 (9f), J Barry 1-1, A Cadogan 0-3, D McCormack 0-2, B Lawton, S Harnedy 0-1 each.
Scorers for UCD: J Guiney 0-8 (7f), P Murphy 1-2, C Buckley, W Walsh 0-2 each, D Fox 0-1.
UCC (Cork unless stated): D McCarthy; S Maher (Tipperary), D Glynn (Kilkenny), P O’Sullivan; J Barry (Tipperary), P Prendergast (Waterford), C Murphy; B Murray, D Roche; R O’Shea, D McCormack (Tipperary), J Barron (Waterford); A Cadogan, B Lawton, W Griffin (Limerick).
Subs: S O’Donnell (Clare) for Cadogan (14-16, blood), C Spillane for Murphy (35), O’Donnell for Roche (42), S Harnedy for Barron (47).
UCD (Kilkenny unless stated): B Leydon; B Coughlan (Waterford), W Phelan, J Gannon; J Lyng, M O’Hanlon (Wexford), W Egan (Cork); C Keane (Galway), C Buckley; W Walsh, P Murphy, J Power; D Fox (Galway), J Guiney (Wexford), D Treacy (Dublin).
Subs: C O’Shea for Fox (50), J McDowell for Gannon (58), M Vaughan (Clare) for Keane (60).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).