UCC survived a late second half surge from UL to be crowned this year’s Division 1 League champions in Mallow on Monday night. The Cork side were handed an eight point advantage at half-time having scored three goals in the first 30 minutes, before the Limerick team produced a fine second half performance, scoring four goals, to ensure only a three point win for UCC.
UCC enjoyed the brighter start to the match as UL struggled to find the pace and form they have enjoyed throughout their League campaign. Kevin Kenny was brought down inside the UL box to earn a penalty for his side, the resulting effort initially saved by the UL goalie, Gavin Ryan. UL failed to clear and the excellent Marc Dolan pounced on the rebound ball for UCC’s first goal of the night.
UCC were merciless and refused to allow UL settle into the game. Points from Dara Walsh and Patrick Curran eased them into a six point lead. UL had to resort to long range efforts to try and overcome the tight UCC defence but their efforts were fruitless as their wide count began to grow. Trevor Horgan eventually got UL off the mark with a fine effort from a tough angle. As they began to find their feet, however, they were dealt a blow as a devastating run from Dolan opened up the UL defence and he soon found the net for his second of the night.
UL continued to work hard, Alan Murphy trekking to the half-back line to put in a magnificent hook to prevent the deficit from expanding. However, their defence was unable to cope with the constant attacking pressure from the clinical UCC forwards, and for the third time, Gavin Ryan’s net was shook, this time Donal Hannon providing the final shot. UL introduced Barry Heffernan and Josh Keane who made an immediate impact for the Limerick side, Keane putting pressure on the clearly dominant UCC midfield.
UCC’s workrate and intensity didn’t waver. A wonderful catch from Curran and his resulting point saw the gap between the sides enter double figures. A lapse in discipline from the UCC defence, allowed his opposite number, Murphy, to reduce the deficit by two as the teams headed in for half-time.
Another Murphy free was the opening score of the second half. The UCC dominance continued however as they enjoyed further points from Cathal McCormack and Dolan, once again. What could have been another UCC goal, which would have effectively killed off the match, was cleverly cleared by Leigh Bergin and ended up between the posts at the opposite end from Kevin Bergin. The sides traded points, UL finally beginning to match the intensity of their Cork counterparts. UL’s hard work began to pay off when Paul Ryan scrambled the ball into the back of Jack Barry’s goal after an excellent solo run from Heffernan. The Limerick team began to sense a comeback and added two further points.
UCC’s Kevin Kenny was taken down, a foul that saw David Fitzgerald sent off after a second yellow. Curran gratefully pointed the resulting free. The wing forward then added a magnificent long-range effort to his tally. Unfazed by the loss of a man, UL fought on and a wonderful collective effort from their forwards ended up rattling the net, Liam Moloney taking the plaudits. Their joy was short lived as Donal Hannon soon cancelled out the UL goal with a rasper of a shot for UCC’s fourth. Moments later, UL threatened the UCC goal again only for brilliant work from Jack Barry clearing the danger. UCC began to feel the pressure and missed two manageable scores.
UL continued to grow in midfield and a clever pass from Josh Keane allowed Ian Galvin to be released through the UCC defence. A flick onto Murphy and the Kilkenny man ensured Jack Barry was beaten again. With minutes left, there was only six between the sides. UL were awarded a 65 which Murphy dropped into the box. UCC failed to clear the ball sufficiently and with the box crowded, Liam Moloney managed to find the back of the UCC net once again.
It was a nervy last minute for UCC as UL continued to win possession and pose an attack. A final wide from Tom Morrissey brought the UL tally to eleven and with the resulting puck-out came the final whistle. UCC held on for a three point win to claim this year’s Fresher Hurling League Cup.