UL were crowned Fitzgibbon Cup champions for the first time since 2011, after Brian Lohan’s men eased past WIT at Pairc Uí Rinn in last night’s replay.
Independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup Final (replay)
Wednesday 11th March 2015, Pairc Uí Rinn
UL 2-18 WIT 1-14
The Dr. Edwin Fitzgibbon Cup will be residing in the Treaty City for the next twelve months as UL made no mistake in seeing off the challenge of defending champions Waterford IT at the second time of asking.
The Waterford side led early on in the first half but once a second John McGrath point was scored in the eighth minute, UL pushed on and kept in front of the 2014 champions. McGrath and Man of the match Tony Kelly combined to give the Limerick side early points, while Waterford’s Pauric Mahony kept WIT within touching distance.
Austin Gleeson’s injury induced premature departure looked to shake WIT, but replacement Johnny Hayes steadied the ship with a magnificent point.
UL received a major boost when a ball from Daire Quinn dropped in behind Darragh Stapleton, and though it spurted back out, referee Barry Kelly deemed it to have crossed the line thus leaving them four points to the good.
A few minutes later WIT had a chance to grab a goal of their own with a superb stop by Paul Maher denying Colm Bonnar’s side. Conor Martin, who worked tirelessly throughout, grabbed his first point of the game before Kelly pointed another with ease. Mahony then converted a free to leave WIT trailing by six at half-time.
The Limerick outfit were utterly dominant in the first phase of the second half. McGrath was again accurate with the placed ball while Tommy Heffernan scored off the back of a magnificent catch from midfielder Jason Forde. Harry Kehoe and Pauric Mahony both tried to stem the flow of the UL onslaught with points for WIT.
Forde pointed from a superb sideline while another brilliant save from Maher denied Hayes for the Waterford men this time round. Marshaled by David McInerney and Jack Browne, the UL defence held tight while Kelly continued to be a thorn in WIT’s side. UL’s insurance score came in the 51st minute when a clever pass from McGrath found Heffernan who made no mistake in burying the sliotar into the back of Stapleton’s net.
With five minutes to go, WIT were awarded a penalty. Martin O’Neill stepped up to take the shot, but Maher produced the goods again by making his third save of the day. Mahony and Jake Dillon added points for the reigning champions before Gavin O’Brien finally put the ball past Maher two minutes from time.
However, it all came much too late for WIT thus leaving Clareman McInerney to become the first Banner County native to captain a Fitzgibbon Cup winning team since Frank Lohan led UCC to glory in third-level hurling’s premier competition back in 1996.
Scorers for UL: T Kelly (2f), J McGrath (4f) 0-06 each; T Heffernan 1-01; D Quinn 1-00; K O’Brien 0-02; C Martin, C McInerney, J Forde (0-01 sl) 0-01 each.
Scorers for WIT: P Mahony (5f, 1 '65') 0-08; G O’Brien 1-02; T Fox, H Kehoe, J Dillon, J Hayes 0-1 each.
Photo: Independent.ie/ David Maher/ SPORTSFILE