CORK senior hurling selector Ger Cunningham remains on course to manage UCC to a third successive All-Ireland Freshers (1) hurling title but his players had to withstand a fierce challenge from Cork IT before triumphing after extra-time in a thrilling quarter-final tie at the Mardyke yesterday afternoon.
UCC were grateful to Cork senior Conor Lehane, who struck 0-6 from play in normal-time as his last-gasp point secured them a draw at 1-15 to 2-12 and ensured extra-time.
In the additional periods UCC took over with last year’s Limerick minor Jack Aherne in flying form as he struck six points in extra-time to bring his overall to 0-9. Substitute Patrick Deasy was another to make a key contribution up front for UCC as they held on despite CIT’s John Corkery finding the net in the 75th minute.
CIT nearly stole the honours in normal time. Despite trailing by seven points entering the final quarter, they mounted a powerful revival with Ger Aylward, an All-Ireland minor winner with Kilkenny in 2010, their figurehead in attack.
Aylward rocketed in a goal in the 50th minute, lobbed over another point soon after and then tied the match with another blistering strike to the net with just a minute left. Liam O’Driscoll looked to have struck the match-winning point for CIT moments later before Lehane was UCC’s scoring saviour.
The match featured several outstanding individual performances. Mark Sugrue, who lined for the Cork in the 2010 All-Ireland minor football final, found the net in the first minute of the match for UCC with a clinical finish.
With centre-back Pádraig Prendergast, who has represented Waterford at minor and U21 level, in outstanding form, UCC moved into a commanding 1-7 to 0-2 lead by the 20th minute.
However CIT displayed tremendous battling qualities with Ray Barry, a clubmate of Prendergast’s in Lismore, at midfield and Stephen O’Halloran, who came on as a substitute for Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare side in the Waterford Crystal Cup semi-final last Sunday, at wing-back both to the fore.
By the interval they were only 1-8 to 0-5 adrift before Aylward burst into the game with his late scoring salvo. Yet the inputs of Lehane and Aherne proved decisive in propelling UCC to a semi-final meeting with Waterford IT.
Scorers for UCC: J Aherne 0-9 (0-6f), C Lehane 0-6, M Sugrue 1-2, P Deasy 0-3, P Prendergast 0-2 (0-1f, 0-1 ’65), J Mulcahy, S O’Keeffe 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork IT: G Aylward 2-2, L O’Driscoll 0-5 (0-4f), J Corkery 1-1, R Barry 0-3, M Vaughan, J Pratt 0-1 each.
UCC: N Woods (Clare); D Lester (Cork), D Cahalane (Cork), C Dooley (Cork); K Burke (Cork), P Prendergast (Waterford), E Finn (Cork); M Fitzgibbon (Limerick), C Murphy (Cork); S O’Keeffe (Cork), J Mulcahy (Limerick), M Sugrue (Cork); J Ahern (Limerick), C Lehane (Cork), M Howard (Cork).
Subs: P Deasy (Cork) for Howard (36), A Costello (Limerick) for Finn (52), S Ryan (Waterford) for Fitzgibbon (57), S O’Dwyer (Kilkenny) for Murphy (inj) (78).
CORK IT: D Horton (Tipperary); C Healy (Cork), TJ Brosnan (Cork), A O’Hara (Cork); S O’Halloran (Clare), A Dennehy (Cork), S Healy (Cork); R Barry (Waterford), J Pratt (Cork); D O’Leary (Cork), S Ryan (Waterford), M Vaughan (Cork); L O’Driscoll (Cork), G Aylward (Kilkenny), J Corkery (Cork).
Subs: P Fitton (Cork) for O’Leary (28), D Corbett (Tipperary) for Healy (38), R Smart (Cork) for O’Driscoll (75), S Crotty (Waterford) for Barry (inj) (77).
Referee: Shane Hourigan (Limerick)
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved