UCC have been responsible for Cork IT’s Fitzgibbon Cup exit over the past two seasons with an extra-time victory in the 2012 decider and edging last year’s quarter-final battle by two points. Said hurling folk have labelled this a revenge mission for CIT, an opportunity to ensure they are not subjected to a third consecutive defeat to skull and bones-emblazoned jersey.
First mention of UCC then and it is clear Mulcahy has heard those three letters once too many times this week. The CIT manager instantly shifts focus back to his troops and there it will remain, he insists, until shortly before 6pm this evening.
The former Cork hurler is also quick to shoot down the suggestion of CIT as the “poor relation”. Strides forward have been made, he says, though the finishing line remains uncrossed.
As for a revenge mission?
“There are very few survivors from last year’s team. Alan Dennehy, for instance, who is in at full-back, is hurling for the first time at Fitzgibbon Cup level. We have only four or five of last year’s team. It is almost a completely new team,” he notes.
“There is nothing to be gained by getting caught up on UCC and the defeats of recent years. Those defeats are in the past. They serve no purpose this weekend. If we get over UCC and lose the final, the semi-final win will have counted for what? It is the Fitzgibbon Cup we have come for, not UCC.
“People tend to build up the rivalry because we are so close to each other and because we are both in the city. We are playing in the Fitzgibbon Cup for 25 years or so. UCC have been in it for the past 100 years and hold the record number of titles. We’re still growing in this competition.
“Our aim is to be always competitive, it doesn’t matter who we are playing. And while we have been very competitive over the last number of years, including 2012 when we reached the final, we have still to get over the line. That is again the challenge this weekend, to get over the line.”
the largest quarter-final winning margin of the four remaining teams, accounting for NUI Galway 2-22 to 0-11, but Mulcahy is far from worried that his side weren’t seriously tested last time out. UCC, by comparison, received a stiff examination from UCD before eventually pulling through, James Barry’s goal central to their second-half resurgence.
“While the other semi-finalists may have had tougher quarter-finals, I can tell you we were sore after our group games. It took a lot out of the players to get two wins and secure a home draw for the quarter-final.
“The LIT victory was very important and you can see how we have improved as the competition progressed.”
Mulcahy added: “A good defence and free-taker is key. It won’t be a weekend for forwards. There were six matches there last weekend so the pitches are bound to be heavy, added to the weather for the last two months. The defence which performs best will emerge victorious.”
Pat Mulcahy (Cork)
John Cronin (Cork)
Centre-back Mark Ellis has proven a capable anchor of the CIT rearguard and will be key to limiting the supply of ball feeding inside to Lehane and Co.
Runners-up in 2012.
Yet to get their hands on the trophy.
Today’s opponents UCC have ended CIT’s Fitzgibbon Cup interests in both 2012 (final) and 2013 (quarter-final). Third time lucky?
A positive opening. UCD showed UCC can be vulnerable when put on the back foot early on.
Further heartache inflicted by their neighbours. Four of Pat Mulcahy’s outfit started in last year’s quarter-final loss to UCC. Of that quartet, John Cronin, Michael O’Sullivan and David Drake were members of the 2012 team outgunned in the decider after extra-time.
Davy Fitzgerald (Clare)
Cathal McInerney (Clare)
Tony Kelly. The centre-forward’s pace, vision and dead-ball accuracy marks him out as the one to watch this weekend.
Galway’s Paul Flaherty is the only player outside of Tipperary, Limerick and Clare to feature on Davy Fitzgerald’s starting XV.
Another 60-minute performance. The elements will be a factor today and LIT showed terrific resolve to eke out a 0-10 to 0-6 half-time advantage last time out despite playing into the teeth of a strong wind in the opening period.
A repeat of last year’s encounter – Waterford IT edging their quarter-final battle by five points.
Eddie Enright (Tipperary)
James Barry (Tipperary)
Conor Lehane – the 21-year old was absent for the UCD fixture through injury but is expected to line out this afternoon. The full-forward had been in resplendent form during the group stages and will be the go-to-man in UCC’s bid to reach a third consecutive decider.
Such is the strength of the UCC squad that All-Ireland final hat-trick hero Shane O’Donnell has started just one of UCC’s four games this year.
To continue the college’s streak of recent successes. Both the Sigerson footballer’s and Purcell Cup camogie squad departed Belfast as champions over the past fortnight.
Conor Lehane’s injury may not have cleared up sufficiently to allow him flourish this afternoon.
Colm Bonnar (Tipperary)
Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)
Pauric Mahony – the Waterford man hit 0-14 (0-10 frees) in their victory over DIT last time out. Very much the focal point of WIT’s attack.
Manager Colm Bonnar captained WIT (then Waterford RTC) to their first Fitzgibbon Cup title back in 1995 and has overseen their last four triumphs – 2003, ’04, ’06 and ’08.
Another sizeable tally from their forward unit. WIT posted 7-75 en-route to the semis, averaging 0-23 per game.
Tony Kelly. The Hurler of the Year was hugely influential in LIT’s quarter-final win and while he will always prove a threat from the placed ball, Colm Bonnar’s side will know full well if they are to have any chance of progression, limiting Kelly’s impact from open play is paramount.