The home side were intent on nailing down the top spot in Group B and achieved that in style with a nine-point winning margin illustrative of the standard of hurling they produced.
The incentive of a home quarter-final draw next Tuesdaywas clearly foremost in CIT’s thoughts. They now entertain St Pat’s-Mater Dei in the last eight instead of facing an arduous trip to LIT.
The other major beneficiary of yesterday’s outcome was NUIG. The champions were the bystanders requiring a huge favour by CIT to prolong their interest in the campaign and this result ensured that. The scale of the defeat suffered by DIT proved critical as NUIG’s superior scoring difference ensured they shaded the race for second place in Group B.
This match was defined by the testing conditions with a strong breeze blowing downfield in the first-half and driving rain falling in the second-half. CIT coped impressively, hurling against the wind in the opening period and at the break only trailed 1-10 to 2-4.
There was a goal rush inside the opening 12 minutes with the two strikes CIT plundered being of immense importance. Patrick O’Connor grabbed the first in the eighth minute when he rammed a shot to the roof of the net after Colin Fennelly had brilliantly engineered the opportunity. Four minutes later Michael Bowles gathered a loose ball and fired a fierce drive past Finn McGarry for CIT’s second green flag.
Sandwiched in between, DIT corner-forward Paul Ryan rifled a 20-yard free to the net but it was CIT who led 2-3 to 1-2 by the 14th minute when Ryan Clifford split the posts.
DIT settled to play their best hurling in the second quarter. Dublin senior Tomas Brady and Kilkenny’s Pat Hartley began to shine while Ballyboden St Enda’s sharpshooter Ryan was prolific from placed balls. He rifled over four frees in an eight-minute period that tied the match. DIT were also creative from open play with John Walsh and Liam Óg McGovern clipping over splendid points as they went in at the break in the ascendancy.
However, CIT never panicked and in the second-half exerted complete control to outscore their opponents 2-9 to 0-3. They received an early fillip when Bowles showed the opportunism to find the net after Fennelly had made the initial break. When centre-back Ross Cashman burst forward to fire over an inspirational point in the 33rd minute, CIT edged ahead on the scoreboard and they never relinquished that position.
In a team heavily influenced by local players, the Cork backline deprived DIT of the requisite space to cut loose, with Jack Herlihy, Eoin Dillon and Cashman to the fore. At midfield Lorcan McLoughlin moved possession forward with speed while Colm Casey and Clifford showed accuracy in their shooting.
DIT fought manfully to the finish and when Ryan converted a fine free in the 53rd minute, they had shaved the gap to 3-11 to 1-13. But CIT copperfastened their victory three minutes later when Fennelly blasted home the goal that his excellent attacking performance merited.
Ballyhale Shamrocks All-Ireland Club run ruled Fennelly out of action last season, yet he looks a valuable weapon in CIT’s armoury for this campaign. Two fine late points by substitute Pádraig Gould stretched CIT’s advantage and ensured they had plenty to spare at the finish.
Scorers for Cork IT: M Bowles 2-1; C Fennelly 1-2; P O’Connor 1-1 (one free); R Clifford 0-3 (two frees); C Casey, P Gould 0-2 each; L McLoughlin, R Cashman 0-1 each.
DIT: P Ryan 1-7 (1-6 frees); E Murphy 0-2; H Kehoe, P Hartley, J Walsh, L Óg McGovern 0-1 each.
T Quaid (Limerick); J Herlihy (Cork), E Dillon (Cork), J O’Callaghan (Cork); S McDonnell (Cork), R Cashman (Cork), C Leahy (Cork); S White (Cork), L McLoughlin (Cork); P O’Connor (Clare), C Casey (Cork), M Bowles (Cork); M O’Sullivan (Cork), C Fennelly (Kilkenny), R Clifford (Cork).
Subs: S Corcoran (Cork) for White (inj) (27), S Daniels (Waterford) for Dillon (inj) (29), Dillon for Leahy (46), P Gould (Cork) for Casey (53).
F McGarry (Dublin); P Schutte (Dublin), O Walsh (Kilkenny), L Barron (Kilkenny); P Phelan (Kilkenny), T Brady (Dublin), J Walsh (Laois); P Hartley (Kilkenny), P Kelly (Dublin); E Murphy (Kilkenny), M Murphy (Kilkenny), P Donnelly (Wexford); H Kehoe (Wexford), L Óg McGovern (Wexford), P Ryan (Dublin).
Subs: M Moloney (Kilkenny) for Donnelly (25), P Morris (Wexford) for Kehoe (37), D English (Carlow) for Phelan (41), J Mulrooney (Offaly) for Kelly (46).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).