The hurlers were favourites going into this Electric Ireland decider in Mallow. And while first time finalists Dublin City University put it up to them in a wind-assisted opening half, the outlook looked inevitable after the interval – DCU’s second goal finished four minutes into added time.
Three counties made up UL’s starting 15 – Clare (5), Limerick (7) and Tipperary (3) - and there were many household names. The in-form Jason Forde, for one, tallied 1-10. Lots of talent there, but bainisteoir Gary Kirby, the former Limerick attacker, said ‘it was all about trying to gel them together’.
“The thing that surprised me a lot was, no matter what county they are with, they mix well together. They play very well as a team. They have been doing it all year.
“I have to compliment the managers in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, they were very understanding, and they were very helpful in the way we looked after the players.
“We have guys who have won All-Irelands in senior, U21 and minor.
“They know what they are doing. They showed their composure in the second half and they took their points when needed.”
DCU – managed by Limerick man Eoin Roche - took the lead after just two minutes when Peter Hogan pointed. But, UL responded with the next four points. On the quarter hour mark, the Limerick side edged 0-6 to 0-5 ahead.
The north Dublin college needed to avail of every opportunity.
They rued some missed chances especially Patrick Curran’s goal attempt that was brilliantly stopped by Gearoid Hegarty, and a follow-on shot that was saved by goalkeeper David McCarthy.
But it wasn’t long before Curran made amends. John Donnelly was fouled for a penalty and the Waterford player made no mistake.
Crucially, UL struck the next three points including a brace from the outstanding Forde. And when the Silvermines club man goaled after Barry Murphy and John McGrath made the opening, they moved two clear.
Meanwhile, Dublin sharpshooter Donal Burke was giving UL plenty to ponder, his excellent free-taking keeping his side in contention as DCU trailed 1-9 to 1-11 at the interval.
Upon the resumption, a lovely point from play by Burke cut the gap to one, but UL soon moved up a few gears. Points by McGrath, Tony Kelly, Forde (2), and David Fitzgerald put them in a good position. Further minors from Ronan Lynch, Forde and Fitzgerald yielded a seven-point cushion - Lynch lined out at midfield as a direct replacement for injured Tipperary player Paul Maher.
It was game over when UL substitute Pat Ryan fired their second goal on 53 minutes, another fine move, again involving skipper McGrath which pushed their lead out to 2-19 to 1-13. DCU, meantime, were barely keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Their second point of the half from play courtesy of midfielder Darren Mullen came six minutes from time.
With the hour almost up, Hegarty and Ian Galvin white flags stretched the advantage to nine-points. Sub Conor Burke’s goal in stoppage time put a brighter complexion on the DCU scoreboard.
The Fitzgibbon Cup returned to Limerick for the fourth year in succession. Mary Immaculate College retained the title last year, and UL’s previous victory was in 2015.
J Forde (1-10, 0-7 frees, 0-1 65m), P Ryan (1-0), R Lynch, J McGrath, K O’Brien and D Fitzgerald (0-2 each), I Galvin, T Kelly and G Hegarty (0-1 each).
D Burke (0-9, 0-7 frees), C Burke and P Curran (pen) (1-0 each), K Doyle, D Mullen, P Hogan, J Donnelly, J O’Connor and C Delaney (0-1 each).
D McCarthy (Limerick); A McGuane (Clare), C Cleary (Clare), S Finn (Limerick); B Heffernan (Tipperary), G Hegarty (Limerick), D Fitzgerald (Clare); T Kelly (Clare), R Lynch (Limerick); I Galvin (Clare), K O’Brien (Limerick), T Morrissey (Limerick); J McGrath (Tipperary, Capt), J Forde (Tipperary), B Murphy (Limerick).
M Casey (Limerick) for A McGuane (37), P Ryan (Limerick) for K O’Brien (47), D Gleeson (Tipperary) for B Murphy (57), B Troy (Kilkenny) for S Finn (60), J Henley (Waterford) for D Fitzgerald (64).
O Foley (Wexford); C McSweeney (Limerick), E O’Donnell (Dublin), P O’Dea (Dublin); A Maddock (Wexford), C Delaney (Kilkenny, Capt), P Foley (Wexford); D Mullen (Kilkenny), J O’Connor (Wexford); F Whitely (Dublin), R McBride (Dublin), D Burke (Dublin); J Donnelly (Kilkenny), P Hogan (Waterford), P Curran (Waterford).
D Grey (Dublin) for J O’Connor (inj 30 +1), K Doyle (Westmeath) for P Hogan (35), E Conroy (Dublin) for P Foley (47), C Burke (Dublin) for F Whitely (inj 50).
Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).