After a breathtaking two days of Fitzgibbon Cup action only four teams remain. The semi-final pairings have thrown up some mouth-watering clashes, with favourites University of Limerick taking on IT Carlow, and an all Dublin showdown between DCU and UCD. Both games are expected to draw large crowds and will undoubtedly be followed closely by inter-county managers across the country.
The quarter-final ties produced some outstanding entertainment for the neutral patrons and provided us with the opportunity to witness some of the country’s brightest young talents in action.
The competition has come in for some unfair criticism in recent years, with some suggesting it had lost its competitive edge, though this has certainly not been the case in this year’s competition.
I’m going through the final four and see what’s what ahead of the semi-final showdowns next week.
University of Limerick
UL are the favourites for this year’s competition and have been the standout team in this year’s competition. They will go into their semi-final meeting with IT Carlow full of confidence, having blown away a star studded UCC team in the quarter final.
The Limerick based college have had a remarkable scoring return from their games so far, registering a staggering nine goals and 66 points over the course of their three games. The college boasts an array of attacking talent other colleges – and even inter-county teams – could only dream of, with John McGrath, Barry Murphy, Tony Kelly, Ian Galvin and free-taker Jason Forde the major danger-men.
However, it will be UL’s defence that will be required to nullify opposition forwards, with Clare duo David Fitzgerald and Conor Cleary, along with outstanding Limerick corner back Séan Finn, providing experience in this area.
Carlow IT are the emerging force of Fitzgibbon Cup hurling. The Carlow College have made tremendous progress in recent years as illustrated by their presence in last year’s Fitzgibbon cup final.
Manager and Kilkenny hurling legend DJ Carey has helped turn around the college’s fortunes, and in doing so has implemented a style of play which has really suited the college. This year’s team in particular has shown great spirit, along with a never say die attitude in each of their games to date.
Their quarter-final win over LIT is a prime example of this as, despite being outplayed for the first 30 minutes of the game, and trailing by a point at the break, the college thundered into the second half in what was a titanic contest to book their place in the semi-final.
Their team is well balanced with quality present throughout the team. Enda Rowland of Laois is an assured presence in goals while Shane Reck, James Doyle and Michael Harney are all quality defenders. The midfield pairing of Colin Dunford and Richie Leahy are to be feared as both are capable of big performances.
IT Carlow will look to utilise the pace and scoring ability of key attackers Jack Fagan and Cathal Dunbar while relying on the physical strength of Martin Kavanagh to disrupt opposition defenders. IT Carlow will be quietly confident of turning over UL and will relish the underdog tag being placed on them.
Dublin Institute of Technology
DIT are undoubtedly the surprise package of this year’s cup. The Dublin college have now recorded impressive wins over both Waterford Institute of Technology and University College Dublin to book their place in this year’s semi final.
They have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with and DCU will not be taking them lightly when they meet. The Dublin outfit do not have many household names within their ranks, with the exception of Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher and Kilkenny powerhouse Liam Blanchfield, but still possess quality players in key areas.
Westmeath have a strong representation in this team with Tommy Doyle and Derek McNicholas manning the number 3 and 6 jerseys with authority respectively. They are very reliant however on the scoring threat of corner forward Niall O’Brien, who has lit up this year’s competition with a string of match winning displays. They will hope that other forwards will make the step up to overcome their Dublin rivals in what should be a feisty contest.
DCU have shown themselves to be a formidable outfit in this year’s competition with impressive wins over the Garda College, LIT and reigning champions Mary Immaculate College. The competitive nature of their clashes with MIC and LIT in particular should stand to them and they will be confident of reaching the final at the very least.
The Dublin College contains quality in every line of the field and boasts a strong defensive unit. Eoghan O’Donnell is a defender with huge potential and is ably assisted by Conor McSweeney, Conor Delaney and Paudie Foley in defence.
DCU contain a dangerous full forward line of John Donnelly, Pa Curran and Dónal Burke and will look to get quick deliveries into them at every opportunity against DIT. Curran of Waterford in particular is an extremely lively forward who has the potential to cause major problems for the DIT defence if given space. DCU will know that they must match DIT’s intensity if they are to have any chance of progress.
The 2018 Fitzgibbon Cup has been full of twists and turns so far and one has to wonder if there will be room for one last upset next week. Each team remaining has both strengths and weaknesses, but all will believe they can lift the prestigious trophy on February 24th. In games as evenly matched as these it may simply come down to whoever wants it the most on the night.
Tuesday 13th February
UL v IT Carlow – WIT Sports Campus, 7.00pm
DIT v DCU – TBC, 7.00pm