Champions UCC left it late but Mark Coleman fired the winning point from a 65th minute sideline cut to set up a Fitzgibbon Cup final with IT Carlow on Wednesday next and deny hosts DCU.
It was an agonising way for the Dublin college to lose out, but the wait for their first title goes on as 11 Rory O’Connor points proved insufficient to get them over the line.
With five minutes remaining DCU were two points clear, but points from Neil Montgomery and Mark Kehoe levelled matters after 60 minutes. Both sides had chances to win it before Coleman slotted the seemingly impossible sideline from the left into a powerful wind to keep UCC’s hopes of a 40th title alive.
It was Cork senior Darragh Fitzgibbon who pointed first after 25 seconds, but at the other end DCU’s free taker O’Connor soon levelled matters, although Shane Kingston and Shane Conway pushed UCC ahead.
Conway’s second free put UCC 0-5 to 0-1 ahead, but either side of that free Kingston and Fitzgibbon were denied by excellent saves from DCU goalkeeper Oisin Foley, who kept his side in the game.
James Bergin kept DCU in touch, but Conway, Robbie O’Flynn and Kingston opened out that six-point cushion for UCC.
James Burke started DCU’s comeback with a great score, while O’Connor’s frees and further points from early substitutes Darren Mullen and Adrian Mullen meant DCU closed back to 0-11 each at the break.
A point from O’Connor gave DCU the lead for the first time straight after the restart, but it was turning into a battle of the free takers as Conway and O’Connor exchanged point from long range to put DCU 0-14 to 0-12 to the good.
A trio of O’Connor frees stretched DCU’s lead, and it wasn’t until the 49th minute that UCC’s Montgomery struck the first point from play in the second period.
UCC backed that up with another score from sub Michael O’Halloran, which cut the gap to one point, while a Donal Burke effort at the other end was immediately cancelled out by a stunning effort from wide on the left by Montgomery.
Montgomery flashed a shot wide with three minutes to go, which would have levelled matters, but Mark Kehoe then landed a brilliant score from the right to make it 0-17 each with a minute remaining, but Coleman drilled over the winner for UCC.
S Hurley; K O’Dwyer, R Downey, D Lowney; P Cadell, P O’Loughlin, D Griffin (M O’Halloran (0-1) 39); M Coleman (0-1 1’sl), N O’Leary; R O’Flynn (0-1) (B Sheehan 52), S Conway (0-8 7f), C Boylan (N Montgomery (0-2) 44); D Fitzgibbon (0-1) (A Casey 63), M Kehoe (0-1), S Kingston (0-3).
O Foley; C Firman, P Smyth, C Burke; L Gannon, B Ryan, E Shefflin (D Mullen (0-1) 24); D Reck, R McBride; J Donnelly, J Burke (0-1) (F Whitely 52), R O’Connor (0-11 10f); J Bergin (0-2) (F MacGibb 61), J Ryan (A Mullen (0-1) 26), D Burke (0-1).
F Horgan (Tipperary).