UCC survived a late second half surge from UL to be crowned this year’s Independent.ie Freshers Hurling League Division 1 champions in Mallow on Monday night.

UCC 4-14 V UL 4-11

The Cork side were handed an eight-point advantage at half-time with three goals in the first 30 minutes, but their opponents produced a fine second half performance, scoring four goals, to cut UCC’s victory margin to just three points.

UCC enjoyed the brighter start to the match as UL struggled to find the pace and form they had enjoyed throughout their league campaign.

Kevin Kenny was brought down inside the UL box to earn a penalty for his side. The resulting effort was initially saved by UL goalie Gavin Ryan, but his defence failed to clear and the excellent Marc Dolan pounced to score the rebound for UCC’s first goal of the night.

UCC were merciless and refused to allow UL to settle into the game. Points from Dara Walsh and Patrick Curran eased them into a six-point lead.

UL had to resort to long range efforts to try and overcome the tight UCC defence, but their efforts were fruitless as their wide count began to grow. Trevor Horgan eventually got UL off the mark with a fine effort from a tough angle.

However, as they began to find their feet, they were dealt a blow after a devastating run from Dolan opened up the UL defence before he found the net for his second of the night.

UL continued to work hard: Alan Murphy trekked to the half-back line to put in a magnificent hook to prevent his side going further behind.

However, their defence was unable to cope with the constant attacking pressure from the clinical UCC forwards and, for the third time, Gavin Ryan’s net was shaken. This time it was Donal Hannon who provided the final shot.

UL introduced Barry Heffernan and Josh Keane who made an immediate impact, and put pressure on the previously dominant UCC midfield.

UCC’s work rate and intensity didn’t wane. A wonderful catch from Curran and his resulting point saw the gap between the sides enter double figures. A lapse in discipline from the UCC defence allowed his opposite number, Murphy, to reduce the deficit by two as the teams headed in for half-time.

Another Murphy free was the opening score of the second half. However, the UCC dominance continued as they enjoyed further points from Cathal McCormack and Dolan once again. What could have been another UCC goal, which would have effectively killed off the match, was cleverly cleared by Leigh Bergin and ended up between the posts at the opposite end thanks to Kevin Bergin.

The sides traded points as UL began to match the intensity of their Cork counterparts. UL’s hard work began to pay off when Paul Ryan scrambled the ball into the back of Jack Barry’s net after an excellent solo run from Heffernan. The Limerick team began to sense a comeback and added two further points.

Then UCC’s Kevin Kenny was taken down by David Fitzgerald, with the latter being sent off after a second yellow for his foul. Curran subsequently pointed the free. The wing forward then added a magnificent long-range effort to his tally.

Unfazed by the loss of a man, UL fought on and a wonderful collective effort from their forwards ended up rattling the net: Liam Moloney taking the plaudits. Their joy was short lived though as Donal Hannon soon cancelled out the UL goal with a rasper of a shot for UCC’s fourth. Moments later, UL again threatened the UCC goal only to be denied by brilliant work from Jack Barry. UCC began to feel the pressure and missed two manageable scores.

UL continued to grow in midfield and a clever pass from Josh Keane allowed Ian Galvin to bound through the UCC defence. It was flicked onto Murphy and the Kilkenny man ensured that Jack Barry was beaten once more. With minutes left, there were only six points between the sides.

UL were awarded a 65 which Murphy dropped into the box. UCC failed to clear the ball sufficiently and with the box crowded, Liam Moloney managed to find the back of the UCC net again.

It was a nervy last minute for UCC as UL continued to win possession and pose an attacking threat. A final wide from Tom Morrissey brought the UL tally to 11. With the resulting puck-out came the final whistle. UCC held on for a three-point win to claim this year’s Independent.ie Fresher Hurling League Cup.