The first round of the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup is set to commence next Tuesday, as UL seek to defend their crown. There's some brilliant hurling talent involved in the competition, and the panels feature a mix of seasoned intercounty hurlers with those wanting to break into their county's senior teams. Whilst Limerick's Cian Lynch graduated from the University of Galway this past summer, there's still plenty of talent to be shown in the competition.
Here's five teams we're very excited to watch over the coming six weeks..
The Dublin based university will be hoping to get far into the competition with this team. On the panel are Cian O'Cathasaigh and dual star Brian Sheehy who won the Dublin county title with Kilmacud Crokes this year. As expected, the Belfield boys have a strong contingent of former Dublin underage stars. Ciaran Foley, Seamus Fenton and Dara Purcell all won the U20 Leinster title back in 2021. They'll be hoping to add more silverware together.
University of Galway
The beaten finalists last time out, they'll be confident they can go one step forward with their talented panel. The competitions highest scorer last year and current Galway forward Evan Niland remains on. Niland hit 0-79 in 2022 and should reach similar numbers this year. Niland's intercounty teammates Brian Concannon and Greg Thomas are also in the team and will be eager to impress to get a chance with new Galway boss Henry Shefflin.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) November 29, 2020
Along with the county's senior players, the panel also has players from Galway's recent successful minor teams. Eoin Lawless, who won the All Ireland minor title in 2018 and was named in the Electric Ireland Minor Team of the Year is present. Their opponents forwards will find it hard to get scores if the corner back is marking them. 2018's and 2020's minor all Ireland triumphs are also represented with Oisin Flannery and Shane Morgan, the former fresh off winning the county title with St Thomas'.
Failing to get out of the group stage last year, DCU should get further considering the talent in their panel this time out. Kilkenny's Adrian Mullen - who won an All-Star in November 0 will lead the side's attack. The 22-year-old is in excellent form for Ballyhale Shamrocks, and still has an All-Ireland club final ahead of him next month.
31 nóim@KCrokesGAAClub 0-07@BallyhaleGAA 1-17
Tús iontach ós Na Seamróga sa dara leath, dhá scór laistigh de cúpla soicind faighte acu!
Adrian Mullen with an impressive point for The Shamrocks! 👌#TheToughest @GAA_BEO | @gaaleinster | @AIB_GAA
BEO/LIVE AR @TG4TV pic.twitter.com/Ht1yIee0yE
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) December 4, 2022
In defence, is Dublin's current corner back Andrew Dunphy who is capable of keeping any forward quiet. Carlow's halfback Fiachra Fitzpatrick has shone for his county hurlers this year and will hope to do the same for the university. DCU has a quartet of former Wexford U20 Hurlers to call upon, Cian Byrne, Joe Barrett, Niall Murphy and Richie Lawlor. Former Kilkenny minors Harry Walsh and Padraig Dempsey are also present. With a lot of underage stars, they'll be keen to get noticed by the current intercounty managers.
Unsurprisingly, the Cork based college has a lot of talent from the Rebel county to call upon. County champions with St Finbarr's and Cork panelists Ethan Twomey and Conor Cahalane's names are on the panel. The St Finbarr's duo have six intercounty teammates alongside them. Shane Barrett, Jack O'Connor, Robert Downey, Cormac O'Brien, Eoin Roche and Darragh O'Brien are all on the panel.
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) October 10, 2021
Along with the senior player contingent, UCC also have former underage stars present. Former U20 Cork defender Luke Elliot will prove hard to beat. Padraig Dempsey who won the 2021 U20 All Ireland title is another attacking threat for the college. Waterford left wing back Iarlaith Daly, who made his intercounty debut in 2019, will bring experience to the side.
The defending champions will be confident they can make it two in a row. The Limerick based university has nine intercounty players in their ranks. Last year's captain and Tipperary player Bryan O'Mara will lead the team out again. O'Mara was impressive in last season's campaign, being named in midfield in the Electric Ireland Higher Education Rising Stars Hurling Team of the Year. His intercounty teammate Gearoid O'Connor is also named.
The college is not short of captain material with Cork's Brian O'Sullivan, who led the Rebel county to U20 success in 2021 present. In defence, is Waterford's Mark Fitzgerald, who impressed in the U20 championship this year. However, it is the UL's attack that is most impressive.
Waterford's Mikey Kiely, who was named alongside O'Mara in the team of the year in the last campaign after his remarkable goal in the semifinal, is involved again. Laois and Cork's forwards, Padraic Dunne and Sean Twomey join Kiely in the forward line. Clare forward Mark Rodgers will be hoping to continue his good form. Rodgers proved that he can score points with his hurl and his foot in the Clare championship this year.
This is a absolute TANTALIZING piece of Skill. Take a Bow Mark Rodgers 👏👏👏pic.twitter.com/wNSzLF1Xoo
— Buff Egan (@buff_egan) September 4, 2021
The college also has players present from Limerick, Waterford and Offaly with Cathal O'Neill, James Power and Killian Sampson keen to retain their title.