UCC’s defence of the Fitzgibbon Cup stayed on track as they booked a home quarter-final with victory over Cork IT at the Mardyke on Sunday.
However, while the holders were rampant in the first half, leading by 0-15 to 0-6 at half-time, they conceded the first four points of the second period and couldn’t replicate the same flowing hurling.
Manager Tom Kingston was pleased to have topped the group, but acknowledged that the visitors shaded matters after the break: “It was a certainly a game of two halves!” he laughed.
“In the first half, I thought we played really well, we dominated, we hurled well, we had good combinations, the attitude was right.
“Everything was right in the first half and it was totally the opposite in the second half, but all that credit is due to CIT. They had a different mindset in the second half, they came at us and took us on and they won the second half.
“We were lucky we had such a lead at half-time, it gave us that cushion. In the second half, they played better than us and we now know we have a lot of work to do.
You try to guard against complacency, as I said to them, we had no right to complacency, but sometimes it can happen, you can go in too much ahead.
“If you start losing the momentum, it’s very hard to turn that back around but credit is due to the boys, they got a few scores and steadied the ship a bit. A home quarter-final is what we set out to achieve.”
The home side found their groove from the off, with points in the opening minute from Robbie O’Flynn and Conor Boylan while Shane Kingston was in menacing form in the full-forward line, finishing the half with six points to his name.
Their first seven points were all from play, while it wasn’t until Ryan Walsh pointed for CIT on 24 minutes that they registered from a source other than Liam O’Shea’s frees.
Wing-backs Niall O’Leary and David Lowney were impressive for UCC, who moved the ball purposefully and at pace. When Darragh Fitzgibbon won a CIT puckout in the 30th minute and fed Michael O’Halloran for a point, they were 0-15 to 0-5 to the good.
CIT’s O’Shea had the last score of the half to leave nine in it and they were transformed on the resumption, scoring the four points of the second half as well as shooting three wides, with Seán O’Leary Hayes and Brian Everard getting on the scoresheet too.
Even with the lead down to five points, UCC didn’t look overly rattled and they were settled again with a Shane Conway free before sub Mark Kehoe profited from good play by Conway and Mark Coleman to make it 0-17 to 0-10 with just over a quarter remaining.
A game CIT never gave up and Michael Ryan and O’Shea brought it back to five again but when Lowney and Conway replied for UCC, the outcome was assured. The goal CIT needed never looked like materialising and UCC saw things out.
They will have a week and a half to prepare for a clash with the Group D runners-up while CIT will host NUI Galway on Thursday in a shootout for second place. On their second-half showing, Kingston has hope for his cross-town rivals: “I’d give them plenty chance against Galway,” he said.
“Galway are a good team, we only got over them by a point or two last Sunday, but CIT at home are different, they’ll put it up to anybody.
“They have the benefit of a good game now and they hurled really well in the second half.”
Scorers for UCC: S Kingston 0-7, S Conway 0-5 (0-4 frees), D Griffin, R O’Flynn 0-2 each, D Lowney, M Coleman, P O’Loughlin, C Boylan, M O’Halloran, M Kehoe 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork IT: L O’Shea 0-9 (0-8 frees), M Ryan 0-2, S O’Leary Hayes, R Walsh, B Everard, D Lyons 0-1 each.
UCC (Cork clubs unless stated): S Hurley (St Finbarr’s); D Lowney (Clonakilty), R Downey (Glen Rovers), K O’Dwyer (Killenaule, Tipperary); N O’Leary (Castlelyons), P O’Loughlin (Kilmallock, Limerick), D Griffin (Carrigaline); M Coleman (Blarney), R Connolly (Adare, Limerick); D Fitzgibbon (Charleville), R O’Flynn (Erin’s Own), C Boylan (Na Piarsaigh, Limerick); S Kingston (Douglas), M O’Halloran (Blackrock), S Conway (Lixnaw, Kerry).
Subs: M Kehoe (Kilsheelan-Kilcash, Tipperary) for Boylan, P Cadell (JK Brackens, Tipperary) for O’Loughlin (both half-time), B Sheehan (Dicksboro, Kilkenny) for O’Halloran (38), A Casey (Ballyduff Upper, Waterford) for O’Dwyer (46), B Turnbull (Douglas) for Fitzgibbon (60).
CORK IT (Cork clubs unless stated): G Collins (Ballinhassig); J Copps (Ballyhea), S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), W Hurley (Valley Rovers); R Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore, Tipperary), E Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore, Tipperary), C O’Carroll (Charleville); J Doyle (Charleville), M Ryan (Clonoulty-Rossmore, Tipperary); D Lyons (Dungarvan, Waterford), R Walsh (Kanturk), B Everard (St Mary’s); L O’Shea (Lisgoold), B Barrett (Causeway, Kerry), B Twomey (Carrigtwohill).
Subs: J Cooper (Éire Óg) for Twomey (26, injured), J Hallahan (Cloyne) for Copps (half-time), T Howard (Dromtarriffe) for Ronan Heffernan (56), N Fives (Tourin, Waterford) for Ryan (60).
Referee: T Walsh (Waterford).