Brian Carson’s charges meet the winners of this afternoon’s clash between Ulster University and St Mary’s and, should the Shannonside outfit advance, it would mean a third Sigerson Cup semi-final appearance on the bounce.
Yesterday’s five-point, first-round win followed on from a hugely encouraging Division 1 league campaign, which saw UL overcome Cork IT, IT Tralee, Queens and DCU to progress to a decider against UCC, which they lost by two points.
Five of last year’s team — Luke Boland, Limerick senior hurler Gearoid Hegarty, Cavan’s Niall McDermott, Denis Daly, and Clare’s Pearse Lillis — that was defeated by UCD in the semi-final started here. Daly and Hegarty were part of the breakthrough team in 2015 and have been ever present since. The latter almost got in for an early goal, with another Limerick man, James Naughton, converting a pair of frees to put them on the board.
Down the other end, it took CIT a little longer to get their radar in working order and, after two wides — they’d finish the half with six — and a third effort which dropped short, Kieran Murphy and two Dan Ó Duinnín frees propelled them in front.
A Niall McDermott free had the sides level, briefly, with the visitors scrambling in a 20th-minute goal. Stephen O’Sullivan’s delivery wasn’t dealt with and, though Kevin Browne couldn’t get his shot away, Matthew Bradley’s kick skidded into the net.
Bradley and O’Sullivan increased their tally, with the visitors moving into a 1-5 to 0-3 lead.
They’d not score again, however, until eight minutes into the second period, by which stage their opponents had 2-3 without reply.
Eoghan O’Connor and Fintan Ó Cunaigh were involved in teeing up Conor Finucane for their opening goal on 28 minutes and points from Keelan Sexton, McDermott, and Finucane meant that UL moved ahead (1-6 to 1-5) at the break.
Matters further improved for Carson’s side upon the restart, Naughton converting from the penalty spot on 36 minutes after Sexton was fouled. The goal was a tough one for CIT to stomach, considering it arrived just minutes after UL keeper Barry Redmond had produced a fine save to deny Stephen O’Sullivan. As it was, they worked their way back into proceedings, with Ó Duinnín (0-3, two frees) and Browne cutting the deficit back to the minimum, 2-7 to 1-9.
Another barren spell, though, would derail their comeback, CIT failing to raise a flag between the 44th and 59th minute.
Five-in-a-row from McDermott (two frees), Sexton, Hegarty (the Limerick hurler was dismissed on a second yellow card in injury-time), and Finucane sewed up the result.
Ó Duinnín of Cill na Martra and Bradley of Aghabullogue pulled back points late on for CIT, but they were merely consolation efforts.
UL, no question, will be a difficult prospect for whichever northern side emerges from this evening’s game.
J Naughton (1-0 pen, 0-2 frees), C Finucane (1-2 each); N McDermott (0-5, 0-4 frees); K Sexton (0-2); G Hegarty, F McDonagh (0-1 each).
D Ó Duinnín (0-6, 0-5 frees); M Bradley (1-1); K Murphy (0-2); S O’Sullivan, K Browne (0-1 each).
B Redmond (Mayo); S Courtney (Kerry), L Boland (Tipperary), D Quinn (Donegal); C O’Dea (Clare), P Lillis (Clare), S Okunbar (Kerry); F O Cunaigh (Galway), G Hegarty (Limerick); E O’Connor (Limerick), D Daly (Kerry), J Naughton (Limerick); C Finucane (Clare), K Sexton (Clare), N McDermott (Cavan).
J Mason (Mayo) for Boland (48); N Rabbitt (Longford) for Daly, D Bohannon (Clare) for O Cunaigh (both 55); E Lawless (Kildare) for Finucane (57); F McDonagh (Mayo) for O’Connor (59); J Lyons (Mayo) for O’Dea (bc, 62).
A Casey (Cork); D Meaney (Cork), S Cahill (Limerick), A McCarthy (Cork); K Fahey (Tipperary), P O’Sullivan (Kerry), E Lavers (Cork); K O’Hanlon (Cork), C Kingston (Cork); K Browne (Cork), C O’Shea (Kerry), S O’Sullivan (Kerry); M Bradley (Cork), K Murphy (Kerry), D Ó Duinnín (Cork).
M Collins (Cork) for O’Shea (50); T Sheehy (Kerry) for Bradley (55); C Jordan (Kerry) for Lavers (57).
J Gilmartin (Sligo).