UL and WIT must do it again as thrilling Independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup final finishes level
University of Limerick 3-12 Waterford IT 0-21
UNIVERSITY of Limerick and Waterford IT will have to do it all over again to find a winner of the 2015 Fitzgibbon Cup.
Tom Fox fired over a stunning equalising point in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of extra-time to bring holders WIT back from the brink.
WIT trailed by four points in the closing stages of normal time but almost snatched victory with a run of five unanswered scores, before 2013 Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly converted a stunning free from the touchline to rescue UL.
Goals from Jason Forde and Stephen Bennett had UL in the driving seat in extra-time and in the second period, Brian Lohan’s charges led by four points.
But there was still time for resilient WIT to, somehow, come again as Pauric Mahony’s 65 was followed up by two points from Martin O’Neill – before that man Fox struck from long range.
And UL, chasing a first Fitzgibbon Cup title since 2011, could yet regret letting this one slip after registering a massive tally of 18 wides over the 80 minutes.
It appeared that WIT, playing against a second half gale, had stolen victory with those five points approaching the end of the regulation hour– including three from supersub Johnny Hayes.
That blistering purple patch turned a four-point deficit into a one-point advantage but there was still time for Kelly to hold his nerve and fire over the leveller – 1-11 to 0-14.
At half-time in normal time, UL had been in an excellent position, leading by 0-6 to 0-4 after playing against a gale force wind from the start.
John McGrath hit four of UL’s first half points, including the opening three scores of the game, as the four-time winners got off to a flying start.
Harry Kehoe banged over WIT’s first point but with 19 minutes on the watch, last year’s winners were 0-2 to 0-5 behind.
A mini-revival saw Austin Gleeson cut over a trademark sideline before Pauric Mahony opened his account with a free.
But McGrath had the final say of the first half, notching his fourth point, and second free, to leave UL in a commanding position at the break.
Tommy Heffernan’s second half goal further strengthened UL’s quest for a fifth crown but WIT showed huge character to come roaring back in the second half – and again in extra-time when they looked dead and buried.
Forde’s goal in the first period of extra-time rocked WIT back on their heels and at the turn, UL were 2-11 to 0-16 in front.
Mahony levelled matters with a free on the resumption before Bennett’s clinical strike and a PJ Scully point pushed UL four clear.
But after Mahony landed a 65, Martin O’Neill put over two long-range beauties – before Fox had the final say.
Curiously, both sides seemed to fare better against the wind on an evening when the finalists served up a cracker in testing conditions.
Scorers for UL: J McGrath 0-5 (3f), T Heffernan & J Forde (0-1f) 1-1 each, S Bennett 1-0, T Kelly 0-2 (1f), K O’Brien, C McInerney & PJ Scully 0-1 each.
Scorers for WIT: P Mahony 0-8 (5f, 1 65), J Hayes 0-3, T Fox, M O’Neill, J Dillon & A Gleeson (1 sl) 0-2 each, H Kehoe & T Hamill 0-1 each.
UL: P Maher; G Ryan, B Troy, E Moriarty; D Quinn, D McInerney, B Stapleton; J Forde, T Kelly; D Morrissey, J McGrath, T Heffernan; C McInerney, C Martin, K O’Brien.
Subs: S Bennett for McGrath (49), PJ Scully for C McInerney (57), M Carmody for O’Brien (68), A McGuane for Martin (76).
WIT: D Stapleton; J Maher, O McGrath, G Teehan; T Hamill, M O’Neill, T Fox; J Langton, S Roche; G O’Brien, P Mahony, H Kehoe; L McGrath, A Gleeson, J Dillon
Subs: J Hayes for L McGrath (49), C O’Brien for Gleeson (78).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).