An uninterrupted seven-point first-half scoring burst set NUI Galway on their way to the quarter-finals of the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup as they proved superior to CIT last night.
With both teams having lost to Group C winners UCC, this was effectively a play-off for a place in the last eight, though scoring difference was in favour of the visitors NUIG, meaning a draw would have done them. Ultimately, they built on a four-point half-time lead as a 49th-minute goal by Seán Loftus put the game beyond a CIT team that had been reduced to 14 men by that stage.
Evan Niland was in sparkling form in the Galway attack, finishing with nine points, but throughout the field they had top performers, with Shane Burke impressive at midfield and Darren Morrissey at corner-back doing much to ensure that it was a frustrating night for the hosts.
Galway started well, with a free by Niland from his own 65 putting them 0-3 to 0-1 after seven minutes but CIT looked to have found a rhythm as a point by Daragh Lyons was followed by one from Liam O’Shea, immediately after goalkeeper Ger Collins had plucked the ball down to prevent Galway going 0-4 to 0-2 ahead.
Wing-back Cathal O’Carroll then put the home team 0-4 to 0-3 ahead but it was the only time they led and NUIG were 0-10 to 0-4 in front before CIT added to their tally.
A trio of frees from Niland put Galway back in control and it took a good Collins save to deny Shane Fletcher a goal on 20 minutes, but Niland added the 65 that resulted.
Their crisp passing ensured chances continued to come and the only time they had to yield during that period of dominance was when referee Rory McGann forced their substitutes to move from the sideline to the stand.
Nevertheless, CIT had some hope as half-time approached. First, Jack Doyle forced a turnover leading to a Daragh Lyons point and then John Cooper set up Doyle for a score of his own, ensuring they trailed by four at the break. Indeed, on the resumption they almost gleaned a fortuitous goal as a Lyons delivery took a deflection and nearly caught out Galway goalkeeper Seán Manogue.
A second Doyle point did cut the gap to three and, after a Burke point for Galway, Liam O’Shea’s free made it 0-11 to 0-8 but CIT then lost Cork hurler Ryan Walsh for a second yellow card after an off-the-ball incident.
While they did have the next score, another huge free by O’Shea, Galway made use of their greater manpower and Niland registered his ninth from a free before the hardworking Loftus made his influence felt with a goal, latching on to possession to fire home after sub Conor Caulfield’s ball goalwards caused confusion.
That made it 1-12 to 0-9 and Loftus had two more points before the end as they eased clear to set up a quarter-final clash next weekend against IT Carlow.
L O’Shea 0-5 (0-4 frees), D Lyons 0-3, J Doyle 0-2, C O’Carroll 0-1.
E Niland 0-9 (0-6 frees, 0-1 65), S Loftus 1-2, S Burke 0-2, C Elwood, M Lynch 0-1 each.
G Collins (Ballinhassig); S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), W Hurley (Valley Rovers), J Copps (Ballyhea); R Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore, Tipperary), E Heffernan (Clonoulty-Rossmore, Tipperary), C O’Carroll (Charleville); J Doyle (Charleville), R Walsh (Kanturk); M Ryan (Clonoulty-Rossmore, Tipperary), D Lyons (Dungarvan, Waterford), J Cooper (Éire Óg); L O’Shea (Lisgoold), B Barrett (Causeway, Kerry), T Walsh (Millstreet).
Niall Fives (Tourin, Waterford) for Ryan (half-time), Daniel Harrington (Fr O’Neills) for R Heffernan (48).
S Manogue (James Stephens, Kilkenny); J Fitzpatrick (Killimordaly), C Killeen (Loughrea), D Morrissey (Sarsfields); A Greaney (Craughwell), D Loftus (Turloughmore), M Gill (Castlegar); S Burke (Turloughmore), I Fox (Sarsfields); S Loftus (Turloughmore), B Concannon (Killimordaly); C Elwood (Liam Mellows); S Fletcher (Roscrea, Tipperary), J Fleming (Meelick-Eyrecourt), E Niland (Clarinbridge).
Michael Lynch (Kilnadeema-Leitrim) for Fleming (36), Conor Caulfield (Kilconieron) for Fletcher (38), Liam Forde (Ardrahan) for Caulfield (50, injured), Eoin O’Donnell (Ardrahan) for Greaney (60).
Rory McGann (Clare)