The Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup rarely disappoints. On a dark and damp Thursday night in February, some of the best hurlers in the country served up a nail-biter as University of Galways staged a dramatic comeback to force extra-time and ultimately prevail against UCC, 1-24 to 2-18.
Trailing 2-14 to 1-12 with eight minutes remaining in the contest, last year's finalists found the answers. At the centre of the effort were county stars Brian Concannon and Evan Niland, with the latter contributing 12 points. Henry Shefflin will have been an interested viewer, as two of his key attackers made their mark.
Following Wednesday's dramatic Sigerson Cup final, there was to be no extra-time glory for UCC on this occasion in their pursuit of the double, as UG finished stronger to progress to Saturday's decider.
University of Galway show dogged determination to dig out a win over UCC
Similar to Shefflin, Cork boss Pat Ryan will certainly have been pleased with what he saw from several of his county players. Rebels attackers Conor Cahalane, Shane Barrett and Brian Hayes all impressed in the UCC forward unit. Barrett and Hayes both found the net, making strong cases for inclusion in the Rebels starting team.
The trio's scores in the first-half looked to be setting the Lee-siders on the right track, but a goal created by Tribesmen star Concannon and finished by Greg Thomas helped University of Galway level it at the half-way mark in the contest.
The conditions did not make play any easier, and UCC used that to their advantage after the restart. Barrett capitalised on a ball that dropped near the goal mouth and gathered possession before nearly bursting the net.
UCC opened a four-point lead, but their opponents managed to hang in there. True daylight was eventually put between the sides in the 48th minute, as Hayes barrelled the ball across the line after an impressive team move.
Leading 2-14 to 1-12, UCC looked well on their way to another final.
But a fightback, led by Evan Niland who shot 0-8 in normal time, brought the University of Galway back into contention. And a late Tiernan Kileen leveller from the right wing forced extra-time.
Upon the resumption, Niland and Alex Connaire led the way, as UG out-scored their opponents to get over the line. UCC were unable to arrest the momentum, and a late effort on goal flying wide signalled the end of their challenge.
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