But the Limerick University will need to beat Limerick rivals Mary I today — a team they’ve already dealt with this spring — 5-15 to 3-14 in the group stages.
Brian Lohan’s charges will also need to produce a much improved performance. The holders were a shadow of themselves in the opening period and were fortunate to be just two adrift at the break – 0-9 to 0-7 – as ‘keeper Paul Maher pulled off an excellent save to deny UCD’s Ross King.
Having stormed into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead inside four minutes – Tom Morrissey, John McGrath (free) and Cathal McInerney on target – the favourites simply dropped the tempo of their hurling for the remainder of the half.
UCD then struck six of the next seven scores in turning a two point deficit into a three point lead. Kilkenny senior James Maher (0-2), Dublin senior Colm Cronin, Padraic Guinan, Eoin Conroy and Oisin O’Rorke etching their names onto the scoresheet.
Full-forward Tom Morrissey, the sole UL player to swim against the tide in the opening period, clipped his third on 23 minutes to narrow the deficit and a John McGrath free in the subsequent action left the minimum between them. Still, there was never a sense of UL catching fire. And a pair of O’Rorke frees either side of half-time to restore UCD’s three point cushion – 0-10 to 0-7 – heightened talk of a surprise result.
On 36 minutes, colour returned to the cheeks of the UL players. McGrath flicked over a sideline cut and Morrissey added his fourth. A Jason Forde free was steered to the net by McGrath on 42 minutes and UL had turned on the ignition and sped past their opponents – 1-9 to 0-10. A further three minors arrived in quick succession and UL were almost out of sight.
UCD, in ending a 16 minute barren spell, countered with four unanswered points through O’Rorke (0-3 frees) and a third from Maher. Eight minutes remaining and a puck of the ball stood between them (1-12 to 0-14).
A contentious call by ref Cathal McAllister to penalise Conor O’Shea for what appeared a fairly solid tackle enabled McGrath nail his fourth free and wrestle momentum back from the Belfield side. Forde (free) and Guinan then swapped efforts, but it was game-over when McGrath plucked Conor Martin’s delivery from the sky and angled a low shot past ‘keeper Darragh Holohan. The Tipperary senior turned provider for sub Tommy Heffernan in the subsequent action; UL goal number three finally killing off plucky UCD.
J McGrath (2-5, 0-4 frees); T Heffernan (1-1); T Morrissey (0-4); J Forde (0-3, 0-3 frees); C McInerney (0-1).
O O’Rorke (0-8, 0-7 frees); J Maher (0-3); P Guinan, C Cronin (0-2 each); E Conroy (0-1).
P Maher (Tipperary); S Roche (Leitrim-Kilnadeema), J Browne (Clare), G Ryan (Clare); B Heffernan (Tipperary), J Forde (Tipperary), B Stapleton (Tipperary); A McGuane (Clare), K Hehir (Clare); D Fitzgerald (Clare), J McGrath (Tipperary), C Martin (Kilkenny); K O’Brien (Limerick), T Morrissey (Limerick), C McInerney (Clare).
T Heffernan (Tipperary) for Fitzgerald (40 mins), A Murphy (Kilkenny) for McInerney (52), G Hegarty (Limerick) for Forde (60), PJ Scully (Laois) for Roche (61), B Maher (Tipperary) for Morrissey (62).
D Holohan (Kilkenny); P Hannon (Galway), S Murphy (Wexford), J Madden (Dublin); H Lawlor (Kilkenny), C O’Shea (Kilkenny), S Moran (Dublin); C O’Callaghan (Dublin), E Conroy (Wexford); J Maher (Kilkenny), C Cronin (Dublin), P Guinan (Offaly); O O’Rorke (Dublin), R King (Laois), C Devitt (Wexford).
J Malone (Dublin) for Con