Brian Lohan’s University of Limerick showed patience and perseverance to break down the stiff challenge of Dublin IT in yesterday’s Fitzgibbon Cup Group C opener.
Having played against the elements in the first-half, as goalkeeper Paul Maher’s longer puckouts struggled to reach halfway, this was a case of hanging in there for holders UL.
They did and at half-time, a three-point deficit was wholly acceptable for Lohan’s men, as DIT registered 10 wides before the interval.
Within five minutes of the restart, UL were level and after Kevin O’Brien shot them ahead for the first time since the early exchanges, there was no looking back.
Derek McNicholas finished as the game’s top scorer with 0-9, including one brilliant sideline cut into the wind, but the Westmeath forward’s efforts were ultimately in vain as UL turned the screw.
DIT led 0-9 to 0-4 as half-time approached but a couple of John McGrath frees kept UL in touch as the winners registered three of the last four points before Alan Kelly’s short whistle.
The sides had been level three times before DIT finally found their range from long distance to open up that five-point gap, Wexford’s Lee Chin particularly impressive during this purple patch.
But UL appeared to have the measure of their opponents and with McGrath on song from placed balls, they stuck at it before finally burning off Eoin Brislane’s charges.
McGrath’s fellow Tipperary native Tommy Heffernan impressed up front for UL, with four-points from play matched by Limerick’s Kevin O’Brien. And in a competitive four-team group also containing NUI Galway and Mary Immaculate College, this was a crucial win for UL and a setback for DIT.
Clare legend Lohan admitted after the game he was worried about the opposition en route to the capital but UL had enough about them yesterday to suggest they will be contenders again this season, despite missing the vast majority of last year’s defence.
Lohan said: “It’s a big change and we were very worried about it coming up here, with the quality of players the opposition had, really well drilled and we were under pressure for long periods in the first-half. We’re delighted to come out of it with a win. The tendency, with a breeze like that, is to pump everything into the full- forward line and it gets bunched around the square but we tried to be patient and get scores from outside if we could.”
D McNicholas 0-9 (3f, 1 65, 1 sl), L Chin 0-3, C Sheehan & J Guiney (f) 0-1 each.
J McGrath 0-7f, K O’Brien & T Heffernan 0-4 each, C Martin 0-2, J Forde, K Hehir & B Heffernan 0-1 each.
P McKenna; C Robinson, T Doyle, S McClelland; D Guinan, L Chin, S Barrett; G Whelan, R Greville; C Sheehan, J Guiney, J Sweeney; AJ Murphy, D McNicholas, C O’Donoghue.
J Henderson for Murphy (half-time), B Kelly for Sweeney (50).
P Maher; S Finn, J Browne, S Roche; G Hegarty, J Forde, B Stapleton; A McGuane, K Hehir; D Fitzgerald, C Martin, T Morrissey; K O’Brien, J McGrath, T Heffernan.
M Casey for Roche (38), B Heffernan for McGuane (52), C McInerney for Fitzgerald (58), L O’Sullivan for O’Brien (60+2).
A Kelly (Galway).