Nicky English is the holder of five Fitzgibbon Cup medals, won during his time at an all-conquering UCC in the early 1980s. At the Mardyke yesterday, he was in the away dugout but the outcome was familiar to him as he masterminded a victory which puts UCD in a great position to emerge from Group A.
A goal just before half-time from Oisín O’Rorke helped the visitors to a 1-7 to 0-7 half-time lead and when Colm Cronin struck on the three-quarter mark it put them 2-9 to 0-11 to the good after UCC had suggested they might reassert themselves.
Ultimately, UCC weren’t able to get the goals required and English was thrilled at the end.
“This is what the Fitzgibbon is all about,” he said.
“It’s a competition that’s always been dear to my heart, ever since I first played on this pitch 35 years ago. We had some of the best days of our lives here. Johnny Enright is the coach so there’s a real UCC backbone to the management.
“We were rank outsiders, but the lads did very well. The Fitzgibbon is very hard to prepare for and, in fairness, we got very good cooperation from Ger Cunningham, a lot of our players are with Dublin but he released them.
“At the end of the day, the goals were the difference. We were delighted with our fellas but it’s important to remember it’s only the first step in a very hard group.”
Another win against Limerick IT next week would almost certainly guarantee UCD a place in the quarter-finals, and here they showed that they are to be reckoned with. Playing crisp hurling in the first-half as they had what benefits the crosswind provided, in the second period they withstood the UCC efforts while O’Rorke was able to punish any indiscretions from frees.
Alan Cadogan, the scorer of five points, and Fitz debutant Rickard Cahalane at wing-back, were UCC’s brightest performers and Ger Cunningham’s side led by 0-4 to 0-2 and then 0-7 to 0-5 as half-time approached. However, an O’Rorke free was quickly followed by a goal, engineered thanks to Ross King’s perfect handpass, to put them ahead, another O’Rorke free giving them the goal advantage at the break.
King extended the lead to four upon the resumption but Cadogan responded with two quick UCC points and DJ Foran’s excellent effort left just a point in it, 1-9 to 0-11, after seven minutes of the second-half. When O’Rorke and Michael Breen exchanged points, it looked as if the tit for tat would continue but UCD would soon strike the decisive blow.
Lively wing-forward James Maher was the instigator, as he won the ball 30 yards from goal when UCC failed to clear. He jinked past a number of challenges and if he had finished to the net, it would have been an outstanding goal. Instead, Keith Hogan saved, but Cronin was in the right position to sweep his shot high to the net.
Maher extended the lead on 53 but UCC retained some hope as Rob O’Shea got his fourth free and Cadogan his fifth from play. By this stage, Shane O’Donnell and Barry Lawton had been sprung from the bench. They did manage one chance but Foran shot into the side-netting and O’Rorke ensured that UCD safely saw the game out with two more frees, giving him 1-7.
UCC face Maynooth University next week, knowing a win is essential.
O O’Rorke 1-7 (seven frees), C Cronin 1-0, R King, J Maher 0-2 each, C O’Callaghan 0-1.
A Cadogan 0-5, R O’Shea (three frees) 0-4, M Breen 0-2, DJ Foran, J Power 0-1 each.
D Holohan (Dicksboro, Kilkenny); P Hannon (St Mary’s Athenry, Galway), S Murphy (Buffers Alley, Wexford), J Madden (Ballyboden St Enda’s, Dublin); H Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels, Kilkenny), C O’Shea (Clara, Kilkenny), S Moran (Cuala, Dublin); E Conroy (Naomh Éanna, Wexford), C O’Callaghan (Cuala, Dublin); J Maher (St Lachtain’s, Kilkenny), C Cronin (Cuala, Dublin), J O’Connor (St Martin’s, Wexford); R King (Rathdowney-Errill, Laois), O O’Rorke (Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin), C Prendergast (Clara, Kilkenny).
P Guinan (Drumcullen, Offaly) for Moran (40), T Phelan (Conahy Shamrocks, Kilkenny) for Prendergast (54, injured).
K Hogan (Clooney/Quin, Clare); C Gleeson (Fourmilewater, Waterford), D Morrissey (Ahane, Limerick), S Roche (Shamrocks, Waterford); R Cahalane (Ballymartle, Cork), C Spillane (Castlelyons, Cork), G O’Brien (Roanmore, Waterford); J Barron (Fourmilewater, Waterford), M O’Brien (Ferrybank, Waterford); R O’Shea (Carrigaline), M Breen (Ballina, Tipperary), N McCarthy (Carrigtwohill, Cork); A Cadogan (Douglas, Cork), DJ Foran (Portlaw, Waterford), J Power (Carrickshock, Kilkenny).
C Murphy (Mallow, Cork) for Spillane (7, injured), T Devine (Modeligo, Waterford) for M O’Brien (30), N Cashman (Blackrock, Cork) for G O’Brien (37), S O’Donnell (Éire Óg Ennis, Clare) for McCarthy (45), B Lawton (Castlemartyr, Cork) for Power (53).
G Quilty (Clare).