Crowley prepares for American Fitz

On March 11th in Páirc Ui Rinn, University of Limerick defeated Waterford Institute of Technology in the Fitzgibbon Cup Final on a score line of 2-18 to 1-14.

This weekend over 6,000km’s away a Cork man will be hoping to claim the American college’s version of the Fitzgibbon Cup (American National Colleges Cup) with the University of Montana. The Donoughmore native is currently there on Erasmus from UCC where he is studying International Field Geo-Science until June and he will then go working before returning to play with Donoughmore at the end of the summer.

The University of Montana are the reigning champions of the American National Colleges Cup having won in last year in New York and they will be hoping to regain it this weekend when they host five other American Colleges including University of Berkley, California Tech and University of Connecticut.

The American version of the “Fitz” has a few differences namely the fact that the teams only consist of between 11 and 13 players owing to squad sizes and the finals weekend will be played in the 25,000 capacity University Football Stadium on an Astroturf type surface. The teams are also mixed due to numbers.

The University of Montana of whom Crowley is a student are nicknamed the Montana Grizzlies and are coached by former Kilkenny minor hurler Naoise Waldron. The club is in existence two years and can also boast Gemma Rush sister of Dublin hurler Liam amongst their squad looking to regain the title.

The sport has taken the University by storm in the past two years delivering national titles to a college normally more associated with Football as Crowley explains. “The college is more of an American Football College playing in Division one. They last won the National title in 2008 yet last year we took the university by surprise when we travelled to New York and arrived home at the end of the weekend with the title. It gave a lot of positive news to the University and as a result we have received more funding for trips this year”.

With all the positive news regarding the victory the club sourced many new players including having a pro bull fighter playing at centre forward. Crowley jokes about this saying “In his day job he has to jump out of the way to avoid bulls so he finds jumping for a puck a lot easier”.

Despite a squad of between 16 and 24 players for most training sessions the Grizzlies have trained hard for this weekend “We train up to four times a week and have travelled to Seattle for matches in the build up to the weekend”.

When asked as to the differences of playing hurling in Montana instead of the fields of Cork Crowley says “Well it’s a lot more relaxed over here and the players don’t have the same knowledge of each other so there isn’t the same bite to games as you’d have back in Ireland”.

By: Stephen Walsh on Monday nights Evening Echo.