Dunford delivers as Carlow go the extra to reach first decider

IT Carlow 2-20 UCC 1-20: IT Carlow manager DJ Carey has no clue what shape his bruised and battered team will be in for today’s Fitzgibbon Cup final, but says whatever happens they’re in bonus territory now.

UCC had no answer to Carey’s warriors and when Waterford’s Colin Dunford struck the key goal nine minutes from the end of extra-time they had a four-point lead they defended to the end.

The likely loss of key players Dunford, Kevin Kelly and Stephen Maher to muscle injuries means today’s final with the champions Mary Immaculate College will be a big ask of Carey’s side, but he thinks they’ll empty the tanks again.

“I’ve gotten a lot of good wishes this weekend from people who are very surprised Carlow are at this stage,” said Carey.

“Two years ago we were beaten by LIT by a couple of points in the quarter-final, last year we were beaten by one point in extra-time by UCD in the quarter-final, so we just needed to get over that hurdle.

“We set out on a journey a couple of years ago to try and get this far and we’ve done it. We’re maybe in bonus territory.

“But you know what, when you are in bonus territory you want to go on and actually win it now.

“This is a tough weekend obviously, it’s two matches in two days if you are to win but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

Carey’s men, as they have done throughout the campaign, hurled stylishly from the outset and once they took a second-minute lead through the brilliant Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher, they never trailed and UCC were always chasing the game.

Maher was a real key performer, hitting 11 points in all including three from play, while alongside him Chris Bolger and Jack Fagan were also outstanding.

IT Carlow were 0-10 to 0-8 ahead at the interval, as Maher, Chris Bolger and Martin Kavanagh all found the target, while Meath native Jack Fagan caused huge trouble inside with his physical presence.

At the other end, Rob O’Shea was a threat for UCC and his point just after half-time cut IT Carlow’s lead down to a point.

But in a crucial period, IT Carlow hit three points in a row as Bolger and Maher again added to their tallies.

Maher will be annoyed to have missed a 65 to win it after 60 minutes, but even before that it looked like the win was theirs when Kevin Kelly goaled with four minutes left.

That gave them a 1-15 to 0-13 lead, but John Power goaled before Michael Breen added two points to force extra-time.

But IT Carlow were hungrier in the added period. After some brilliant tackling from Carey’s forward division, Maher’s point got them up and running, and when Martin Kavanagh broke through and passed to Dunford, he fired the crucial goal of the game.

Scorers for IT Carlow:

S Maher (0-11, 6 frees, 2 65); C Bolger (0-4); K Kelly (1-1); C Dunford (1-0); M Kavanagh (0-2); J Fagan, E Rowland (f) (0-1 each).

Scorers for UCC:

R O’Shea (0-7, 5 frees); M Breen (0-5); J Power (1-1); A Spillane (0-2); J Barron (0-2); A Cadogan, M O’Connor, T Devine (0-1 each).

IT CARLOW:

E Rowland (Laois); D Palmer (Laois), K Hannaffin (Kerry), R Brown (Waterford); J Doyle (Carlow), D Healy (Meath), D O’Hanlon (Tipperary); K Kelly (Kilkenny), C Dunford (Waterford); C Dwyer (Laois), M Russell (Tipperary), M Kavanagh (Carlow); J Fagan (Waterford), S Maher (Laois), C Bolger (Kilkenny).

Subs:

T Nolan (Tipperary) for Dunford (58), C Dunford for Nolan (60), T Nolan for Fagan (66), J Fagan for Kelly (75), M Redmond (Wexford) for Maher (75).

UCC:

J Berry (Cork); I Kenny (Waterford), C Spillane (Cork), S Roche (Waterford); S Kennedy (Tipperary), C Gleeson (Waterford), R Cahalane (Cork); J Barron (Waterford), M Breen (Tipperary); M O’Brien (Waterford), T Devine (Waterford), G O’Brien (Waterford); A Cadogan (Cork), A Spillane (Cork), R O’Shea (Cork).

Subs:

J Power (Kilkenny) for G O’Brien (h-t), C O’Leary (Cork) for M O’Brien (39), M O’Halloran (Cork) for S Roche (39), C Roche (Waterford) for Spillane (57), M O’Connor (Cork) for Cahalane (67), S Hegarty (Cork) for Power (78).

Referee:

Barry Kelly (Westmeath).



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