Brian Lohan’s charges had 13 points to spare over CIT in their opening fixture and while yesterday’s victory over the Galway University wasn’t as clearcut, the game as a contest was pretty much cooked by half-time.
The home outfit played into a strong wind in the opening period and their four-point interval advantage, 1-10 to 0-9, left the visitors with a mountain to climb upon the restart.
Hindering the NUIG cause was the absence of the Mannion brothers, Cathal and Paraic, owing to their involvement with Ahascragh/Fohenagh in this month’s All-Ireland intermediate club final. UL, mind, were without Ballyea playmaker Tony Kelly.
John McGrath, having hit 1-8 last time out, had the radar in perfect working order again and it was his 12th minute goal that established the first bit of daylight between the teams - the Tipperary All Star collected Tom Morrissey’s delivery and angled a low show past Galway ‘keeper Cathal Tuohy to move the hosts 1-3 to 0-3 clear.
Waterford’s Stephen Bennett and McGrath split the posts thereafter and while Niall Mitchell, the hardworking Conor Cleary and Kevin McHugo kept the deficit manageable, NUIG needed to be in front at half-time, not behind.
Bennett, Lorcan Lyons and Morrissey clipped the first three points of the second-half and UL’s quarter-final berth was secured when Stephen Bennett flicked the sliotar over the head of Tuohy for goal number two on 35 minutes. Gearoid Hegarty added his fourth point from play in the subsequent action and all of a sudden the gap had stretched into double-figures, 2-14 to 0-9.
Niall Mitchell drilled a 21-metre free to the net in response, with points from Ger Hennelly and Mitchell (free) further eating into their opponents’ lead. Lohan’s students, though, were playing well within themselves and stepped it up a gear entering the final quarter to hit five of the games’ next six scores - Bennett (two frees), David Fitzgerald, Bennett and Kevin Hehir on target.
NUIG full-forward Sam Conlon did fire in a consolation goal, but thoughts had already turned to next Tuesday’s must-win fixture away to CIT. UL, on the other hand, can afford to rest a number of key players for their game against DCU St Pats. The strength of their panel was once more on show here, with Ronan Lynch, Bobby Duggan, Barry Nash and Pat Ryan confined to the subs bench.
J McGrath (0-4 frees), S Bennett (1-5 each); G Hegarty (0-4); D Fitzgerald, K Hehir (0-2); L Lyons, T Morrissey, M Mullins (0-1 each).
N Mitchell (1-5, 1-5 frees); S Conlon (1-1); G Hennelly (0-1 free), K McHugo (0-2 each); C Cleary (0-1 ‘65), O Donnellan (0-1 each).
D McCarthy (Limerick); M Casey (Limerick), B Troy (Kilkenny), L O’Connor (Clare); B Heffernan (Tipperary), J Forde (Tipperary), D Fitzgerald (Clare); A McGuane (Clare), L Lyons (Limerick); T Morrissey (Limerick), K Hehir (Clare), G Hegarty (Limerick); S Bennett (Waterford), M Mullins (Galway), J McGrath (Tipperary).
D Gleeson (Tipperary) for Hegarty (51 mins); JP Lucey (Waterford) for Morrissey (55); G Ryan (Clare) for Casey (59); R Lynch (Limerick) for Mullins (60).
C Tuohy (Galway); C Cosgrove (Galway), B Fitzpatrick (Clare), C Ryan (Tipperary); M Connelly (Galway), C Cleary (Clare), G Forde (Galway); I Fox (Galway), O Donnellan (Clare); N Mitchell (Westmeath), K McHugo (Galway), G Hennelly (Galway); G Loughnane (Galway), S Conlon (Tipperary), C Whelan (Galway).
S Moloney (Galway) for Forde (20 mins, inj); S Barrett (Galway) for Loughnane (43); P McCrann (Galway) for Fox (52); J Cummins (Galway) for Hennelly (60).
J McCormack (Tipperary)