Manager: Pat Mulcahy (Cork)
Captain: John Cronin (Lisgoold, Cork)
Last year: Edged out by WIT in the decider on a scoreline of 0-17 to 0-12.
Last success: Have never won the competition. Runners-up in 2003, 2012 and 2014.
What they want: To finally reach the summit of third-level hurling. The journey is of little relevance given past failures, it’s all about the destination for Pat Mulcahy’s charges.
What they fear: A Colm Bonnar managed Waterford IT outfit will again put paid to their Fitzgibbon ambitions.
Super stat: Cork IT boast the most frugal rearguard of the four remaining teams, conceding an average of 0-12 per game.
Key figures: John O’Dwyer, Aidan Walsh, Mark Ellis.
Prospects: No UCC, and Aidan Walsh back in the CIT colours; they won’t get a better opportunity than this to secure a maiden Fitzgibbon Cup crown.
Manager: Davy Fitzgerald (Clare)
Captain: Alan Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh, Limerick)
Last Year: Extra-time heartbreak at the hands of WIT in a most dramatic semi-final contest.
Last success: 2007
What they want: They initially wanted today’s contest put back and with Davy Fitzgerald’s request falling on deaf ears, a second successive Fitzgibbon win over Limerick rivals UL will suffice.
What they fear: Tuesday’s quarter-final against IT Carlow will have left very little in reserve for today. Absence of Alan Dempsey through suspension doesn’t help either.
Super stat: On the last occasion the decider was played at the Gaelic Grounds, 2004, LIT secured outright success – overcoming today’s opponents by 2-13 to 3-4.
Key figures: Paul Flaherty, Willie Ryan, Seanie O’Brien and David Reidy.
Prospects: Won’t be returning tomorrow for a third game in five days tomorrow.
Manager: Brian Lohan (Clare)
Captain: David McInerney (Tulla, Clare)
Last year: Shocked on their home patch at the quarter-final juncture by LlT. A star-studded UL outfit were raging hot favourites to go the distance, but simply did not show up when falling on the sword of their neighbours by 2-16 to 1-13.
Last success: 2011
What they want: To exact revenge for last year’s premature exit.
What they fear: Tony Kelly and David McInerney’s recent hamstring troubles sideline the pair for today’s game. Both missed the quarter-final win. Kelly’s impact both on the scoreboard and field of play, as seen in the drawn game with UCC, is invaluable.
Super stat: UL’s starting team includes three hurlers from the one Kilkenny club – Emeralds’ Eoin Moriarty, Brian Troy and Conor Martin.
Key figures: Brian Stapleton, Jason Forde, Tommy Heffernan.
Prospects: Should have more than enough to see off Limerick IT, but if Kelly and McInerney are absent, they simply do not have the experienced heads to see them across the finish line on Saturday.
Manager: Colm Bonnar (Tipperary)
Captain: Jake Dillon (De La Salle, Waterford)
Last year: Squeezed past LIT and CIT on the finals weekends to secure the college’s ninth Fitzgibbon crown.
Last success: 2014.
What they want: Another sizeable tally from their front six. Waterford IT posted 10-76 in their four outings, averaging 0-26 per game.
What they fear: John O’Dwyer. The Tipperary forward has been most influential in advancing CIT to the finals weekend. Question marks have hung over Waterford’s defence since the hammering inflicted by Mary I and they will again come under the microscope from Bubbles.
Super stat: Manager Colm Bonnar captained WIT (then Waterford RTC) to their first Fitzgibbon Cup title back in 1995 and has overseen their last five triumphs – 2003, ’04, ’06, ’08 and ‘14.
Key figures: Thomas Hamill, Austin Gleeson, Pauric Mahony.
Prospects: They travel to Limerick with one of their strongest teams in recent memory and yet they will struggle to remain alive in the competition beyond this afternoon.
Mark Ellis (Cork IT)
Ellis’ performance at the Fitzgibbon Cup finals weekend in Belfast last year was the springboard from which the Millstreet hurler became a permanent fixture in Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s Cork half-back line.
The 24-year old continues to anchor the CIT defence from centre-back and while hardly putting a foot wrong in their four wins en-route to the semi-final, he faces stiff examination this afternoon. Pauric Mahony notched 1-41 in Waterford IT’s run to the penultimate round, proving razor sharp from both open play and the placed ball.
Put simply, Mahony is the individual around which Colm Bonnar has built his team. Ellis held the Waterford forward scoreless from play in the 2014 Fitzgibbon Cup decider and will be required to produce a similar shackling display here. Moreover, responsibility falls on his shoulders to drain the supply lines into Jake Dillon, Austin Gleeson and Liam McGrath.
Those unfamiliar with John McGrath prior to this year’s Fitzgibbon Cup were forced to sit up and take notice when Kilkenny’s All-Ireland winning half-back Cillian Buckley was moved off McGrath in UL’s quarter-final victory over UCD, the Loughmore Castleiney hurler more than outshining his decorated opponent.
In the absence of the injured Tony Kelly last time out, McGrath assumed the leadership role with consummate ease – hitting seven points for UL in a near-flawless showing. The half-forward clipped two-points in Tipperary’s league win over Galway on Sunday, highlighting the rich vein of form he’s enjoying at present. Expected to line out at right half-forward, McGrath will be shadowed by LIT’s Willie Ryan — arguably their strongest performer in Tuesday’s scalp of IT Carlow. Though UL’s forward unit is far from reliant on the 20-year old, he’s a crucial figure in their final ambitions.
Limerick IT’s 2013/14 forward unit was fleeced with inter-county talent — Clare’s Tony Kelly and Cathal McInerney, Limerick’s Pat Begley and Tipperary’s Philip Ivors a selection of the names to have plied their trade under Davy Fitzgerald. With the aforementioned quartet having moved onto pastures new, responsibility has been thrust onto young David Reidy – corner-forward on Clare’s All-Ireland U21 winning team last September.
Reidy has top-scored for Fitzgerald’s outfit this spring (1-26 in three game) and delivered the crucial score to nudge them across the line in Tuesday’s quarter-final fixture. Unsettled by a couple of missed frees in the opening quarter, Reidy atoned superbly with a fine individual goal in which he slipped past the challenge of three black shirts. Given the challenge facing the home outfit this afternoon, another double figure tally will be expected from the Eire Og hurler. Moreover, he can’t afford to let slide a single run-of-the-mill free.