UCC will face ATU Galway in a forthcoming Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final after closing out their Group C campaign with a convincing six-point triumph over UCD at Belfield on Thursday night.
Dead-ball specialist Darragh Flynn ended the contest with 0-9 to his name, while Shane Barrett (0-3) and Eoin Carey (0-2) also played their part for the victorious Leesiders. Thanks to their status as group winners, UCC will now play host to ATU in the last-eight of the competition.
From a UCD perspective, Galway attacker Donal O’Shea (son of former Tipperary manager and selector Eamon O’Shea) did his best to stem the UCC tide with seven points in the opening period of play. Argideen Rangers club man Dara O’Donovan also featured off the bench for the Dublin college, but they will now face a titanic battle against University of Limerick in their bid to reach the penultimate phase of the Fitzgibbon Cup.
UCD had begun brightly on their home turf with the dependable O’Shea knocking over a brace of frees. However, UCC played with the aid of a strong breeze in the first half and swiftly restored parity courtesy of unanswered efforts by Carey and Ballygiblin’s Flynn.
O’Shea and Flynn went on to trade scores, in advance of the Cork side developing their first scoring blitz of the contest. In the space of just three minutes, Carey, Robert Cotter, Barrett and Flynn (free) all found the range to move four points clear on the first-quarter mark.
UCD were struggling to create scoring opportunities from open play, though O’Shea’s place-ball prowess ensured they remained in touching distance. Another 0-2 salvo by the Salthill-Knocknacarra marksman cut their deficit in half, before Barrett and Flynn confidently restored order at the opposite end.
Two more frees without reply followed from O’Shea, but Flynn’s sixth point of the game meant UCC brought a 0-11 to 0-7 cushion into the interval. St Finbarr’s man Conor Cahalane was on hand to increase their lead moments after the resumption, before UCD finally registered their first point from play via the stick of industrious midfielder Dara Purcell.
A subsequent effort from Cian O’Sullivan suggested UCD were going to find scores easier to come by in the second half, but UCC maintained their own attacking impetus. After Barrett and Flynn converted successive frees, Luke Elliott and inside forward Brian Hayes also split the uprights to move their team seven points in front.
Kilkenny’s Eoin Guilfoyle and Purcell kept UCD within striking distance, but with no score being recorded from the 40th to 51st minutes, the Dublin-based outfit needed a late flourish to have any chance of securing the win they so badly craved. Yet when this lengthy scoring impasse came to an end, it was through yet another UCC free by the impressive Flynn.
Randall Og star Sean Daly became the Cork university’s eighth scorer in the game with a fine point on the run and Flynn raised a white flag once again to give UCC a 0-19 to 0-11 buffer with two minutes of normal time remaining.
Cian Rogers and Purcell (with his third) did strike over a couple of points for UCD in stoppage-time, but in stark contrast to their football compatriots - who needed penalties to see off the challenge of St Mary's in Abbotstown the night before - this was a relatively plain sailing encounter for UCC.
With a Sigerson Cup semi-final to look forward to against TU Dublin in Carlow next Wednesday, the dream of a colleges double in 2023 remains alive for the University of Cork.
D Flynn (0-9, 8f, 1 ’65’), S Barrett (0-3, 1f), E Carey (0-2), L Elliott, S Daly, C Cahalane, R Cotter, B Hayes (0-1 each).
D O’Shea (0-7, 7f), D Purcell (0-3), C O’Sullivan, E Guilfoyle, C Rogers (0-1 each).
(Cork Unless Stated): B Saunderson; J Boylan (Limerick), N O’Leary, I Daly (Waterford); C O’Brien, E Roche, L Elliott; D Flynn, S Daly; E Carey, D Hogan, C Cahalane; S Barrett, B Hayes, R Cotter.
Subs: G Millerick for Daly (20), P Power for Cotter (42), C McCarthy for Boylan (45), R Fox (Limerick) for Hogan (55).
: E Hogan (Dublin); I Ó hEithir (Dublin), M Walsh (Galway), D Crowe (Dublin); D O’Carroll (Kilkenny), C O Cathasaigh (Dublin), E Geraghty (Galway); D Purcell (Dublin), C Egan (Kilkenny); C Prendiville (Kilkenny), C O’Sullivan (Dublin), D O’Shea (Galway); C Foley (Dublin), J Duggan (Laois), L Murphy (Dublin).
Subs: D O’Donovan (Cork) for Geraghty (30+1, blood), M Twomey (Waterford) for O’Carroll, C Hoban (Kilkenny) for Egan (both h-t), C Rogers (Meath) for Duggan (42), O’Carroll for Crowe (46), L O’Brien (Waterford) for Foley (53).
: J Keenan (Wicklow).