UCC capped a superb week by claiming their third successive All-Ireland Freshers (1) hurling crown, to complement Saturday’s Fitzgibbon Cup triumph, in an absorbing decider against UL in Mallow yesterday.
It was a brilliant success for UCC, managed by Cork senior selector Ger Cunningham, as they recovered from a nine-point deficit after 25 minutes and it was not until the 53rd minute that they led for the first time.
They were grateful to some excellent marksmanship from last year’s Limerick minor Jack Ahern who maintained his high standards with a 0-9 haul, while St Finbarr’s player Eoghan Finn thrived at wing-forward as he registered 0-4.
UL had posed plenty problems in the first-half, particularly through their towering full-forward Jack Carr, a member of last September’s Galway All-Ireland minor winning side, as they overcame the pre-match blow of Limerick star Declan Hannon being ruled out with a groin injury.
However UCC’s ability to score against the wind in the first-half was crucial as they only trailed 3-7 to 0-11 at the interval.
“It was key for us that we came back into it before half-time,” admitted UCC selector and former Cork All-Ireland winner Tim Crowley afterwards.
“They had a tremendous second-half and kept the scoreboard ticking over. It was a fantastic game as a lot of lads on both sides will be senior stars in the future. It’s a super week for the college as well, doing the double. All these fellas were down in the Dyke last week, doing water and carrying hurleys, and they built on that.”
UL, managed by former Limerick great Gary Kirby, were to the fore in the opening-half. Carr smashed home their first goal in the 8th minute and then turned creator in the 14th minute to set up John Fitzgibbon who raised their second green flag. Tipperary duo Tommy Heffernan and Niall O’Meara were also troubling the UCC rearguard, and Heffernan notched their third goal in the 23rd minute from a 20-yard free.
UCC looked in serious trouble yet Finn was accurate in front of goal while Cormac Murphy was hugely influential at midfield. The switch of Damien Cahalane at full-back helped cope with the physical threat that Carr posed and UCC struck the last four points of the half, with Ahern grabbing three of those.
In the second-half UCC took control with Mark Sugrue, Mark Howard and substitute Shane O’Keeffe all finding their range. Centre-back Padraig Prendergast thundered into the match and a series of well-worked points saw them eventually draw level in the 49th minute when captain Conor Lehane, who had an excellent closing quarter, pointed to leave it 3-9 to 0-18.
Jake Mulcahy put UCC ahead for the first time four minutes later but UL, inspired by Dan Morrissey and Brian Stapleton never gave up.
UCC were grateful to goalkeeper Niall Woods who bravely blocked a Heffernan shot in the 54th minute and they then finished strongly. Howard, Finn, Lehane, O’Keeffe and Ahern all notched points to see them pull clear.
Scorers for UCC: J Ahern 0-9 (0-7f), E Finn 0-4, J Mulcahy, C Lehane, M Howard, M Sugrue, S O’Keeffe 0-2 each, C Murphy 0-1.
Scorers for UL: T Heffernan 1-3 (0-1f), J Carr 1-2, J Fitzgibbon 1-1, N O’Meara, A Clarke 0-2 each, M Carmody 0-1.
UCC: N Woods (Clare); D Lester (Cork), A Hayes (Cork), C Dooley (Cork); D Cahalane (Cork), P Prendergast (Waterford), K Burke (Cork); E Finn (Cork), M Sugrue (Cork); E Finn (Cork), J Mulcahy (Limerick), C Lehane (Cork); P Deasy (Cork), M Howard (Cork), J Ahern (Limerick).
Subs: A Costello (Limerick) for Hayes (16), S O’Keeffe (Cork) for Deasy (32), M Fitzgibbon (Limerick) for Burke (39).
UL: R Morris (Clare); B Davis (Tipperary), M Hanley (Tipperary), D Quinn (Tipperary); S O’Gorman (Wexford), D Morrissey (Limerick), C Scally (Westmeath); D King (Offaly), B Stapleton (Tipperary); M Carmody (Limerick), A Clarke (Westmeath), N O’Meara (Tipperary); T Heffernan (Tipperary), J Carr (Galway), J Fitzgibbon (Limerick).
Subs: D Wilson (Kilkenny) for Davis (44), C Walsh (Waterford) for Quinn (44).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved