UCC chasing historic victory in McGrath Cup

UCC have the possibility of making history tomorrow night when they face Waterford in the McGrath Cup final (Fraher Field, 6pm), but it’s arguably a distraction they could have done without.

No third-level side has won Munster football’s pre-season competition but UCC’s primary focus is on opening their Sigerson Cup title defence against Cork IT on Tuesday at the Mardyke.

Selector John Corcoran admits that the fixture pile-up isn’t ideal, but he believes that their squad is strong enough to cope.

“It is a chance to make history,” he says, “but obviously our focus is on the Sigerson.

“We’re the holders of that competition, the finals are on in UCC and of course we’re playing CIT in the opening game Tuesday.

“When the draw was made for the McGrath Cup, we looked at it and reckoned there was an opportunity to get three good games ahead of the Sigerson. And that’s the way it has turned out.

“Just because the Sigerson is the main focus doesn’t mean we won’t be going down to Waterford to win, though. We’re going to give it a right lash.”

Last year, Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford boycotted the McGrath Cup in protest at the Munster Council’s decision to seed Cork and Kerry in the provincial senior football championship.

Corcoran makes the point that the college sides helped to make the 2013 competition a viable spectacle. He therefore feels that it is fitting that a third-level team should reach the decider. “It’s good to see a third-level team in the final,” he says. “Last year, the colleges kept it going because otherwise you’d have had just Cork and Kerry after the other counties boycotted it. The colleges have definitely been beneficial to the competition.”

Should UCC claim victory, it would add to the impressive portfolio since Billy Morgan came in as manager — with Corcoran as a selector — in late 2009.

In the intervening period, they have won two Sigersons and reached two more finals, with a semi-final their poorest return.

Winning the competition on home turf at the Mardyke would make it a perfect year, but Corcoran is aware of the challenge.

“I suppose having home advantage is a double-edged sword, it can inspire you or put pressure on you,” he says.

“The last team to win it at home were CIT in 2009, and the two we won were in Dublin and Belfast, we were underdogs on both occasions.

“We feel that the panel this year is strong — the nature of colleges competitions means that you lose six or seven every year but then you have fellas coming in who were freshers last year.

“At the end of the day, playing at home, if you get that far, means that you cut down on travel time and things like that, but if you don’t get over your first game, you’re not worrying about things that far down the line.”

Meanwhile, the Cork hurlers have made six changes for tomorrow’s Waterford Crystal Cup semi-final against Clare in Mallow (1pm).

In defence, Damien Cahalane and Seán O’Donoghue come into the full-back line for William Kearney and Christopher Joyce, while Andy Walsh drops from centre-forward to form a new midfield partnership with Brian Murray, as the injured Paul Haughney misses out. Peter Kelleher, Cian McCarthy and Brian Lawton form a new-look half-forward line while Luke O’Farrell replaces Paudie O’Sullivan at full-forward. Alan Frahill-O’Connor and Dayne Lee are the other players who started last week’s win over CIT selected on the substitutes’ bench.

WATERFORD: S Enright (Ballinacourty); D Crowley (St Saviour’s), N Walsh (Kilrossanty), T O’Gorman (Nire); T Ó hUallacháin (An Rinn), M O’Gorman (Nire), R Ó Ceallaigh (An Rinn); S Aherne (Stradbally), T Prendergast (Kilrossanty); M Curry (Rathgormack), M O’Halloran (Ballinacourty), P Hurney (Ballinacourty); L Lawlor (Nire), G Nugent (Rathgormack), J Veale (Kilrossanty).

UCC (Cork clubs unless stated): M Martin (Nemo Rangers); J Davis (Douglas), J McGuire (Listowel Emmets, Kerry), D Culhane (Ballylongford, Kerry); C Dorman (Bishopstown), S White (Clonakilty), T Clancy (Fermoy); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), G O’Sullivan (Listry, Kerry); S Keane (Legion, Kerry), L Connolly (Nemo Rangers), É Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht, Kerry); T Hickey (Castleisland Desmonds, Kerry), C Cox (Listowel Emmets, Kerry), D Harrington (Adrigole).

Subs: P McCarthy (Rathmore, Kerry), P O’Connor (Legion, Kerry), F McNamara (Austin Stacks, Kerry), B O’Driscoll (Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh), P Geaney (Dingle, Kerry), S Kiely (Ballincollig), C Horgan (Nemo Rangers), A Spillane (Templenoe, Kerry), E Dennehy (St Finbarr’s), K O’Sullivan (Kenmare Shamrocks, Kerry), K Histon (Cobh), A O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), R Murphy (Beaufort, Kerry), K Davis (O’Donovan Rossa), P Scanlon (Glin, Kerry), F Courtney (Beaufort, Kerry), K Fulignati (Nemo Rangers).

CORK (SH v Clare): P Collins (Ballinhassig); C O’Sullivan (Sars), D Cahalane (St Finbarr’s), S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra); B O’Sullivan (Fermoy), L McLoughlin (Kanturk), G O’Connor (St Finbarr’s); B Murray (Bishopstown), A Walsh (Killeagh); P Kelleher (Kilmichael), C McCarthy (Sars), B Lawton (Castlemartyr); S Moylan (Douglas), L O’Farrell (Midleton), D McCarthy (Ballymartle).

Subs: A Nash (Kanturk), W Kearney (Sars), C Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), M Ellis (Millstreet), D Kearney (Sars), D Lee (Na Piarsaigh), P Cronin (Bishopstown), A Frahill-O’Connor (Youghal), S Harnedy (St Ita’s), P Horgan (Glen Rovers), P O’Sullivan (Cloyne).

WEXFORD (v Laois): M Fanning; G Barntown, L Ryan, T Waters; E Moore, R Kehoe, P Foley; C Kenny, B Barron; G Sinott, J Kelly, D Waters; I Byrne, C O’Shaughnessy, S Tomkins, K Foley.

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