UCC stuttered at times but Tom Kingston’s side got their Fitzgibbon Cup defence off to a winning start with this Group C win over NUI Galway at Dangan.
This was a very streaky performance from champions UCC, who conceded the first three points, scored the next seven, yet only led by two at the interval. The first four points of the second half then went NUI Galway’s way, before another burst of scores from UCC and Shane Conway, in particular, proved vital in the end.
Evan Niland impressed for the hosts from placed balls, but scores from Mark Coleman and David Griffin kickstarted UCC before Conway’s pointed penalty late on wrapped up the win.
“We got a poor start to the second-half. We were asleep for the first five or six minutes, but fair play to the boys they came back,” said Kingston.
“They created and finished well and that’s a great game for both sides. It was really close, but we knew coming up here that this game would pan out the way it did. It was so tight and physical and hard. NUIG are a serious good side.”
NUIG flew from the traps as a Niland free was followed by a great long-range effort from Paul Hoban. Ian Fox then added a third as the hosts dominated in the January sunshine.
Their momentum was soon halted though. The UCC half-forward line of Robbie O’Flynn, Conor Boylan and Conway all found the target to level matters by the 13th minute before scores from the rampaging David Griffin, Michael O’Halloran and a huge Paddy O’Loughlin free had the Cork side in control.
Three Niland frees hauled NUIG back into contention though, and as the beautiful conditions were replaced by heavy showers, Fox and Billy Hennessy exchanged scores, which left UCC 0-10 to 0-8 ahead at half-time.
NUIG launched into the second half with fierce determination.
A Niland free and 65 had them level by the 34th minute, while half-time sub Michael Lynch drilled over a great score to give them the lead for the second time in the game.
Niland added to that advantage as UCC’s challenge threatened to wilt. But inspired by a brilliant solo effort from Cork star Coleman UCC kicked again.
Either side of Conway points Andrew Casey bagged a score, and although UCC earned a 0-16 to 0-12 lead in that spell the Galway side didn’t falter.
Three Niland frees and Sean Kennedy’s score closed the gap to one, while Kerry native Conway had the comfort of tapping over the late penalty to seal the win for the champions.
Scorers for UCC: S Conway 0-7 (0-4f, 0-1pen), P O’Loughlin 0-2 (2f), M O’Halloran 0-2, D Griffin 0-2, C Boylan 0-1, R O’Flynn 0-1, B Hennessy 0-1, M Coleman 0-1, A Casey 0-1, M Kehoe 0-1.
Scorers for NUI Galway: E Niland 0-12 (11f, 1’65), I Fox 0-2, P Hoban 0-1, M Lynch 0-1, S Kennedy 0-1.
UCC (all Cork unless stated): S Hurley; D Lowney, E Murphy, D Griffin; M Coleman, P O’Loughlin (Limerick), N O’Leary; A Casey (Waterford), B Hennessy; R O’Flynn, S Conway, C Boylan (Limerick); M O’Halloran, S Kingston, D Fitzgibbon.
Subs: M Kehoe (Tipperary) for O’Halloran (5-7 blood), R Connolly (Limerick) for Griffin (28-30+4 blood), M Kehoe for O’Flynn (41), R Connolly for Hennessy (42), P Cadell (Tipperary) for Casey (53).
NUI GALWAY (all Galway unless stated): S Manogue (Kilkenny); C Killeen, J Fitzpatrick, K Hussey; A Greaney, P Hoban, D Loftus; S Loftus, I Fox; C Lawless, J Fleming, B Concannon; S Fletcher (Tipperary), E Niland, C Elwood.
Subs: M Lynch for Lawless (half-time), L Forde for Elwood (38), M Gill for Greaney (42), S Kennedy (Clare) for Fletcher (44).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick).