Having built up a sizeable lead early in the first period, Bill Cooper scoring a sixth-minute goal, the hosts were pegged back as the half progressed through Niall O’Brien’s dead-ball accuracy.
NUIG managed to get to within five points, 1-9 to 0-7, as O’Brien’s 65 represented a third point in a row. CIT midfielder Michael O’Sullivan was on target just before half-time, however, and they came out after the break with a renewed vigour, ensuring the game was put beyond their opponents’ reach.
A repeat of the 2012 final against neighbours UCC next Friday in Belfast is the prize, but CIT manager Pat Mulcahy is not using revenge as a motivation.
“We have a fairly young team,” he said, “a lot of them wouldn’t have been involved two years ago. The bottom line is that at the start of the year our aim was to win the Fitzgibbon, it still is and we’re still there.
“I was pleased with the reaction at the start of the second half. We had begun well but then we allowed them back into it and they probably outscored us in the last 20 minutes of the first half. Once we focused again, we were fine.”
Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer was once again heavily involved, scoring seven points, but what will please Mulcahy and his selectors is that three others — the excellent O’Sullivan, Daniel Dooley and captain John Cronin — each scored four points.
The half-back line of Eoin Keane, Mark Ellis and Pádraig Butler shut down NUIG for much of the first half and again during the crucial period following the restart and it was fitting that David Drake got the game-clinching second goal as, while he hasn’t scored up until then, he was heavily involved in build-up work, so much so that the injured Jamie Coughlan was hardly missed.
CIT roared into the game, Cooper’s goal from Dooley’s pass making it 1-3 to 0-1, and three more points were added before NUIG finally got going.
Even still, CIT were applying heavy pressure — such as Cronin’s point after a sloppy defensive free — but twice the home goalkeeper Stephen Nyhan had to deny Brendan Phelan.
O’Dywer should probably have added a second CIT goal just before half-time, but turning with a 1-10 to 0-7 advantage they were still strong favourites. That status was only strengthened upon the resumption, with O’Sullivan’s midfield dominance helping to provide a platform.
With 11 minutes left, Drake opened up a 16-point lead, 2-18 to 0-8, as he showed wonderful control to take down a ball by sub Kevin Hallissey, and then his top-corner shot was of such quality that it drew gasps from the crowd.
Job done, with a Cork derby in Belfast awaiting them.
Scorers for Cork IT: J O’Dwyer 0-7 (2 frees, one 65), D Dooley, J Cronin, M O’Sullivan 0-4 each, D Drake, B Cooper 1-0 each, E Keane, C Hammersley, K Hallissey 0-1 each.
Scorers for NUI Galway: N O’Brien 0-5 (three frees, one 65), R Greville, G O’Donoghue 0-2 each, JP O’Connell, E O’Farrell 0-1 each.
CORK IT (Cork unless stated): S Nyhan; S Murphy, A Dennehy, T Lawrence; E Keane, M Ellis, P Butler; D Corbett (Tipperary), M O’Sullivan; C Hammersley (Tipperary), J Cronin, B Cooper; J O’Dwyer (Tipperary), D Dooley, D Drake.
Subs: K Hallissey for Dooley (45), W Murphy for O’Sullivan, M Russell for Ellis, M O’Brien (Tipperary) for O’Dwyer (all 51).
NUI GALWAY (Galway unless stated): K Flynn (Tipperary); D Magner (Offaly), J Hansbury, C Diviney; E Teagle, D Higgins, G Forde; JP O’Connell, N O’Brien (Westmeath); K Downes (Limerick), B Lane, R Greville (Westmeath); G O’Donoghue, B Phelan (Waterford), D Reidy (Clare).
Subs: M Mullins for Lane (36), G Joyce (Cork) for Magner (40), E O’Farrell (Cork) for O’Brien (43, injured), E Fahy for Diviney (46), S Cooney for O’Donoghue (53).
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).