Limerick IT deservingly won the battle in an entertaining clash at Belfield yesterday, but by limiting their defeat to a three-point margin, UCD stayed in the war, squeezing through to the quarter-finals at the expense of Waterford IT.
With both teams tied on points and scoring difference, UCD advanced because they had scored two points more than WIT over the course of their two round-robin matches.
Those permutations were the source of much dispute after the final whistle, but what wasn’t up for debate was yesterday’s result.
LIT played the tactically cuter and technically snappier brand of hurling for most of the game, and when it looked like a wind-aided UCD might come from behind to snatch the win in the second half, the visitors showed serious character to dig deep and dredge up a late winning burst. Liam Rushe in action for UCD (Sportsfile)
Even without the injured Joe Canning and Seamus Callanan, who watched from the sideline, LIT looked a better balanced team than UCD, who were over-reliant on Tipperary’s Noel McGrath.
However, while they didn’t quite have the class of their rivlas, the Belfield side matched them for work ethic and proved as much by responding positively to conceding an early goal.
The sides were level 1-1 to 0-4 after 12 minutes, but from that point on, LIT started to take a grip on the game and outscored the home team by seven points to three over the remainder of the half.
When the Limerick side tacked on two quick points after half-time to move into a 1-10 to 0-7 lead, it looked like they might win easily. However, UCD found another gear and came roaring back.
McGrath was the catalyst for everything good they did, punishing LIT indiscipline with accurate free-taking and chipping in with a converted sideline cut and a nice point from play.
Liam Rushe also gave them a great outlet with his aerial ability at full-forward.
With just three minutes of normal time remaining, a Rushe point brought UCD level and it seemed like they had all the momentum, but instead, it was LIT who found the finishing burst.
As round-robin Group A winners, LIT will now play NUIG in the quarter-finals, while UCD have a daunting against a University of Limerick team dripping with inter-county talent.
SCORERS – LIT: P O’Brien 1-1, B Gaffney 0-4 (3f), S Tobin, S Lambert 0-3 each, P Browne, S Collins, W Hyland, D Reale 0-1 each. UCD: N McGrath 0-10 (6f, 1 s-l, 1 ’65’), W Walsh 0-2, L Rushe, K Hogan, J O’Loughlin 0-1 each.
LIT — M Ryan; E Glynn, C Cowan, C Cooney; P Donnellan, J McInerney, J O’Keeffe; P Browne, P O’Brien; S Collins, W Hyland, D Reale; S Lambert, B Gaffney, S Tobin.
UCD — J Ryan; J Doyle, S Cummins, O Gough; N Prendergast, E O’Shea, S Norton; C MacGiolla-Bhride, D Fox; J O’Loughlin, L Rushe, D O’Connor; N McGrath, K Hogan, W Walsh. Subs: C Allis for D O’Connor (41).
Ref — O Elliott.