UL claimed the Fitzgibbon Cup title for 2018 this afternoon with a 2-21 to 2-15 win over DCU in Mallow. Red-hot favourites to land their sixth title even before the season began, University of Limerick did all that was asked of them in
Saturday’s Fitzgibbon Cup final.
Although their win over DCU didn’t contain their explosive bursts of some of the competition’s earlier rounds, they were never in any danger as they soaked up everything thrown at them earlier on and then mercilessly pressed home their advantage after the break to close off any chance of a comeback.
With seven Limerick players lining out and another two coming on as subs – as well as South Liberties’ Conor McSweeney starting on the losing side – this victory marked another milestone in the recent history of third level hurling’s premier competition as the trophy stayed within the city for a fourth successive year.
Although DCU battled gamely throughout, made their presence felt in the middle before the break and struck back with an injury time flourish, they failed to use the wind to build up a half-time advantage. Their hungry start faltered on a string of wides and the writing was on the wall when man-of-the-match Jason Forde’s 22nd minute goal put UL into a lead they never subsequently lost. Unlike their opponents who had five multiple scorers, only Donal Burke consistently found the target for the losers and, even then, seven of his nine points came from frees.
DCU missed a few early chances including a double chance stopped by David McCarthy before Peter Hogan got them off the mark. They paid for the waste when Patrickswell’s Kevin O’Brien struck on the run to settle UL down and they were then whacked by a rat-tat-tat of two Forde frees either side of captain John McGrath’s finish off a hand
However, the Dublin college was quick to regroup. John Donnelly and skipper Conor Delaney from distance both found the target before Donal Burke’s free tied up the scores. They were still winning enough possession around the middle to set up their front men but were being drawn into the fouls which prevented them from building up a decent lead. Still, after Forde’s ‘65’ was met by Burke’s free, Donnelly caught high on the edge of the square and, after he was knocked over, Patrick Curran gave McCarthy no chance with the penalty.
Joe O’Connor followed up to put a clear goal between the sides but that sparked off the response. Forde came deep to bag his first two scores from play and UL were level when O’Brien was given the space out on the left. Burke replied with a free but, straight off the puckout, a slick passing movement involving Barry Murphy, Tom
Morrissey and McGrath ended with Forde ghosting in from the left to collect and drive to Oisín Foley’s net. Ronan Lynch widened the gap further before Burke split the posts with a free and a drive from halfway but UL had the last word of the half as Forde repeated his Tipperary double-act with McGrath to leave them with a lead of 1-11 to 1-9.
Burke pulled that back with the first chnce after the break before McGrath replied and Tony Kelly was given the freedom of the park to add to the Limerick tally. Burke and Forde then swapped frees and Forde added another as UL’s lead crept wider.
David Fitzgerald’s strike was answered by a Burke free but the UL grinder was now ticking relentlessly away. Forde’s free was followed by Ronan Lynch, getting a day pass from his Na Piarsaigh commitments, and Fitzgerald. Although Burked hit back with a free, DCU’s last remaining flickers were quenched when Forde combined with McGrath to handpass to Doon’s Pat Ryan for UL’s second goal.
With the subs coming on, the pace dropped and Dartren Mullen and Burke’s free nibbled into the gap. Gearóid Hegarty and Ian Galvin then took the opportunity to get on the winners’ scoresheet but there was a sting in the injury time tale as Conor Burke buried to the net off Donnelly’s bustling run and a second consolation goal could have followed had McCarthy not blocked Curran’s shot.
Scorers for UL: Jason Forde 1-10 (0-8 frees, 0-1 65), John McGrath, Kevin O’Brien, David Fitzgerald, Ronan Lynch 0-2 each, Tony Kelly, Gearóid Hegarty, Ian Galvin 0-1 each.
Scorers for DCU: Donal Burke 0-9 (0-7 frees), Patrick Curran (penalty), Conor Bourke 1-0 each, Killian Doyle, Joe O’Connor, Conor Delaney, Peter Hogan, John Donnelly, Darren Mullen 0-1 each.
David McCarthy (Limerick), Aidan McGuane (Clare), Conor Cleary (Clare), Seán Finn (Limerick), Barry Heffernan (Tipperary), Gearóid Hegarty (Limerick), David Fitzgerald (Clare), Tony Kelly (Clare), Ronan Lynch (Limerick), Ian Galvin (Clare), Kevin O’Brien (Limerick), Tom Morrissey (Limerick), John McGrath (Tipperary), Jason Forde (Tipperary), Barry Murphy (Limerick)
Subs: Michael Casey (Limerick) for McGuane (36), Pat Ryan (Limerick) for O’Brien (47), David Gleeson (Tipperary) for Murphy (57), Brian Troy (Kilkenny) for Finn (59), Jordan Henley (Waterford) for Fitzgerald (60)
Oisín Foley (Wexford), Conor McSweeney (Limerick), Eoghan O’Donnell (Dublin), Paul O’Dea (Dublin), Aaron Maddock (Wexford), Conor Delaney (Kilkenny), Paudie Foley (Wexford), Joe O’Connor (Wexford), Darren Mullen (Kilkenny), Fergal Whitely (Dublin), Rian McBride (Dublin), Donal Burke (Dublin), John Donnelly (Kilkenny), Peter Hogan (Waterford), Patrick Curran (Waterford)
Subs: Daire Grey (Dublin) for O’Connor (30, injured), Killian Doyle (Westmeath) for Hogan (36), Eoghan Conroy (Dublin) for Foley (47), Conor Bourke (Dublin) for Whitely (51)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)