Both sides entered last night’s concluding Group B fixture having lost to table-toppers UL and having beaten DCU St Pats, so it was very much winner-takes-all. There was to be no winner on the night, however, and NUIG got the nod on account of their plus two scoring difference, a solitary point better than CIT’s plus one scoring difference.
There was bitter disappointment for CIT who were not led once in this entire contest despite being reduced to 14 men after a minute and a half - corner-forward Colm Keane received a straight red card for a late tackle on Conor Cleary. John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer made his first start of the campaign and his point 31 seconds into proceedings set the tone for a busy first-half performance which had the hosts 0-12 to 0-8 clear at the break.
The Tipperary hurler clipped four first-half points, with Waterford’s Mikey Kearney again showing prominently – the CIT centre-forward had five points to his name come the interval break.
Full-back Darragh Fanning was excellent at the other end as the Galway University, despite their numerical advantage, struggled to make any inroads from open play. Ger Hennelly was responsible for all but one of their first-half tally and of his 0-7 haul, six arrived from the placed ball.
Jerry O’Neill, Kearney, O’Dwyer and Andrew Coffey swelled the home side’s account early in the second period to push CIT 0-16 to 0-10 clear. That, however, was as wide as the gap would get. Frank Flannery’s charges slowly began to run out of ideas in attack, not helped by having to operate with a two-man full-forward line and the presence of an extra NUIG defender. Eight of the next 10 scores were registered by the Galway students as the deficit shrunk to the minimum, 0-18 to 0-17, heading into second-half stoppages.
That CIT were still in front by this juncture was solely down to the outstanding goalkeeping of Ballinhaassig’s Patrick Collins. He pulled off four superb saves in the second-half, probably the pick of the bunch was his diving interception to deny Aidan Helebert after the latter had been put through by Conor Whelan for what appeared a certain goal. Mikey Kearney’s seventh free sent the home outfit two clear on the hour mark, although this was quickly cancelled out by Galway hurler Whelan. NUIG ‘keeper Cathal Tuohy subsequently pulled down a John O’Dwyer effort as it headed over the crossbar and the visiting party secured parity for only the third time in the match - and a place in the quarter-finals - when midfielder Ian Fox sent over the leveller on 62 minutes.
M Kearney (0-8, 0-7 frees); J O’Dwyer (0-5, 0-1 free); M Cahalane, J O’Neill (0-2 each); A Coffey, J Good (0-1 each).
G Hennelly (0-11, 0-8 frees, 0-2 65’s); I Fox, K McHugo, C Whelan (0-2 each); G Loughnane, O Donnellan (0-1 each).
P Collins (Cork); K Galvin (Kilkenny), D Fanning (Limerick), E Healy (Cork); D Noonan (Cork), C O’Neill (Cork), J Buckley (Kerry); J Good (Cork), R Hanley (Limerick); A Coffey (Tipperary), M Kearney (Waterford), J O’Neill (Courcey Rovers); C Keane (Cork), J O’Dwyer (Tipperary), M Cahalane (Cork).
B Lyons (Kerry) for Healy (34); T O’Connor (Cork) for Good (43); C Kingston (Cork) for O’Neill (47); C Prunty (Waterford) for Hanley (59).
C Tuohy (Galway); G Fennelly (Tipperary), C Ryan (Tipperary), G Forde (Galway); S Moloney (Galway), C Cleary (Clare), M Connelly (Galway); I Fox (Galway), O Donnellan (Galway); C Whelan (Galway), K McHugo (Galway), N Mitchell (Westmeath); G Loughnane (Galway), S Conlon (Tipperary), G Hennelly (Galway).
A Helebert (Galway) for Conlon (HT); J Cummins (Galway) for Mitchell (41).
F Horgan (Tipperary).