THE Fitzgibbon Cup — boasting a new format — commences tomorrow with four games in Cork, Dublin and Limerick.
The third level hurling competition has been broken up into four groups of three and will be played on a Round Robin system with the top two teams qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Two first-round games are fixed for Cork venues tomorrow.
UCC play host to Garda College at the Mardyke (2pm), while a couple of miles away Cork IT are at home to NUI Galway (2.30pm).
Both Cork sides had the Waterford Crystal tournament as excellent preparation for tomorrow’s clashes. CIT failed to eventual winners Tipperary in the semi-final while UCC lost out to the Premier County in round one.
If Shane O’Neill is fit to play — he missed out on the league semi-final defeat to LIT and the Waterford Crystal game to Tipp — UCC, along with Eoghan Murphy, John Halbert, Donncha Cody and outstanding goalkeeper Anthony Nash, should carry too much power for the men in Blue.
Garda College play in third level competition under something of a handicap. Unlike the universities where courses run for four to five years, a Garda’s training period is only for two years, and just when they put a good team together, they lose the players as they are assigned to duties around the country.
This year’s team will include Clare senior Barry Nugent, James Woodlock who figured with Tipp in Sunday’s Waterford Crystal Cup final win and Michael Fitzgerald (Limerick). However they don’t have the overall strength of the university side.
Cork IT put up a splendid show against Tipp in their Waterford Crystal clash and won’t have any fears about facing the Galway outfit.
Cathal Naughton, Brian Corry who impressed against Tipp’s Paul Curran, Ross Cashman, Adrian Mannix, Niall Teehan and Mathew O’Donnell will all be in their starting 15, but they face a Galway side with it’s own sprinkling of inter-county players.
They are coached by Mattie Murphy who has enjoyed tremendous success at minor level with Galway. Tipperary’s Daragh Egan (back from a broken arm) along with Galway duo Karl Wade and John Lee will spearhead the NUIG challenge and it could be about enough to edge out their hosts.
UL host Waterford IT tomorrow (2pm) in the competition’s Group of Death which also contains champions Limerick IT.
As a consequence expect a battle royal from two evenly matched sides. UL have a host of inter-county players including Kilkenny’s Kieran Joyce and Brian Dowling who has won three Fitzgibbon Cup medals with WIT in the past.
Limerick’s Seamus Hickey, Pa Cronin (Cork), Brendan Bugler (Clare) and Tom Stapleton (Tipp) are also in line for inclusion and Waterford will have to pull out all the stops to win this game. The fourth first-round game sees UCD warm favourites at home to UUJ in Belfield (2pm).
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