DCU chasing titles and respect in Fitzgibbon Cup final

Hurling in DCU wasn’t always the picture of such rude health.

DCU chasing titles and respect in Fitzgibbon Cup final

This afternoon in Mallow, they contest a first Fitzgibbon Cup final. It follows on from their league final involvement before Christmas and successive All-Ireland fresher final appearances in the spring of 2016 and ’17, the latter delivering a maiden title at that level.

Probably worth noting, too, the powerhouse they conquered in that freshers decider is the one they’ll attempt to upset today.

Go back to the start of this decade and DCU, traditionally regarded as a football rather than hurling stronghold, weren’t even members of the Fitzgibbon club, plying their trade in the second tier.

They came off second best to IT Carlow in the 2010 Ryan Cup final and although a seat at the top table was subsequently handed to DCU, they couldn’t land a victory in the years that followed.

In 2012, UCC crushed them on a scoreline of 7-18 to 0-10.

In 2013, LIT walloped them 3-23 to 0-10.

A first win since returning to the top level was eventually secured in February of 2015, neighbours St Pats overcome — DCU and the teacher-training college since joined forces. The manager on that occasion was Nick Weir. He’ll be on the line today as a selector.

“I did know what the situation was like when I got involved, but Paul O’Brien, GAA officer in DCU, told me to hang on in there because the rewards would come,” says Westmeath native Weir. “I guess he was right as you can see it coming together now.

“I was Fitzgibbon manager for three years, while Eoin Roche, a native of Limerick, managed the freshers during that time. Eoin has come in now as Fitzgibbon manager and I’m there on the line with him.

"The freshers have done phenomenally well the last few years and between Eoin and I, we’d know all the hurlers in the college fairly well at this stage.”

Captaining the team is Kilkenny’s Conor Delaney. The Erin’s Own defender, who made his first competitive start for the county seniors last Sunday, was a member of the Kilkenny U21 team which fell to Limerick in last year’s All-Ireland final.

“I wouldn’t have picked DCU for hurling,” admits Delaney. “But when I got there and made friends with a couple of other hurlers, you realise how much quality is there. We have a few Wexford seniors on the team, there’s Patrick Curran and Peter Hogan from Waterford. A lot of the Dublin senior panellists are members of our panel.”

Among those Dublin seniors is full-back Eoghan O’Donnell and half-forward Donal Burke, the latter hitting 1-10 during their semi-final win over Dublin Institute of Technology.

Their respective brothers, Enda and Kevin, were present inside the whitewash on Thursday when Dublin North shocked St Kieran’s to claim a first Leinster senior schools hurling crown.

Green shoots all round.

“There is a rollover effect when you have a couple of positive results,” says Weir. “Word is getting out there and people see what is being put into hurling in this college.

“The type of hurler we have coming into DCU now is absolutely unreal.

“Even if the bookies have us as rank outsiders [today], there are so many colleges who would love to be where we are.”

But, concludes the selector, they’ll have to go and win one before enjoying the full respect of a third-level hurling community whose head they’ve turned on more than one occasion in recent times.

“We’re not that far away at all.”

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