Wall's delight as impressive Mary I retain title
Mary Immaculate Col 3-24 IT Carlow 1-19
It will be hard to surpass this storyline for the year as Mary Immaculate College retained their Fitzgibbon Cup title with an impressive victory which completes a remarkable journey for manager Jamie Wall.
The former Cork underage dual star was on the Mary I team which reached their first ever Fitzgibbon Cup final, when they were defeated by UCC at Pearse Stadium in Salthill in 2013.
Wall's promising career was ended a year later when a spinal illness struck and has confined him to a wheelchair ever since. But rather than feeling sorry for himself, he took over as manager of Mary I when former Limerick star Eamonn Cregan stepped down after guiding them to their maiden crown a year ago.
"He's an inspiration to everyone," said Kilkenny legend DJ Carey, the manager of the IT Carlow side.
"I don't wish to be in any way patronising to him, but what he has achieved is phenomenal.
"Of course, we would have loved to have won it and completed what has been a wonderful journey for us," added Carey, after guiding the Carlow college to their first final appearance.
"The better team won, but we kept battling away and hopefully we will have our day again," added the five-time All-Ireland senior winner.
The Limerick college laid the foundation for victory in the opening half, when they had the wind behind them.
And with Tipp star Ronan Maher and Limerick's Conor Twomey shooting some superb scores, they turned around with a 0-16 to 0-8 advantage.
IT Carlow kept hanging in there, with Waterford's Colin Dunford and Charles Dwyer finding the range.
Mary I finished the opening half strongly, with former All-Star Colm Galvin hitting a superb point and Limerick's Cian Lynch bringing his haul to 0-3 to lead by eight at the break.
Stephen 'Picky' Maher from Laois, who finished with 1-13, hit two points for IT Carlow shortly after the restart, but they suffered a huge blow when Darragh O'Donovan pounced for the opening goal after 36 minutes.
Aaron Gillane blasted home a penalty after 48 minutes to kill off any notion of a comeback by the newcomers.
IT Carlow, not helped by having to go to extra-time to see off UCC in Friday's semi-final, never gave up and they got some hope when Maher forced home a goal.
But Mary I, who never trailed, stepped up a gear again and finished in style, when sub Pa Ryan got a late goal to retain the title for Wall's men.
Wall himself said he was delighted with the win and for the way the players responded to him over the winter as they tried to back up last year's historic success.
"I'm very proud of them, they have worked so hard all during the campaign and delivered again when it mattered," said Wall.
"We did well with the wind in the opening half and then got goals at crucial stages in the second half," he added.
Scorers - Mary I: A Gillane 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-4f), D O'Donovan 1-3 (0-2 sl), R Maher 0-4 (0-3f), P Ryan 1-0, M O'Neill 0-3, C Lynch 0-3, C Twomey 0-3, C Galvin 0-1, L Meade 0-1, S Cahill 0-1. IT Carlow: S Maher 1-13 (0-12f), C Dunford 0-2, C Dwyer 0-2, M Kavanagh 0-1, C Bolger 0-1.
Mary Immaculate College: C Barrett; D Sweeney, R English, E Quirke; C Twomey, R Maher, A Flynn; C Galvin, S Cahill; D O'Donovan, M O'Neill, A Gillane; T Gallagher, C Lynch, L Meade. Subs: T Monaghan for Gallagher (half-time), P Ryan for O'Neill (55), S Burke for Gillane (63).
IT Carlow: E Rowland; D Palmer, K Hannafin, R Browne; R Moran, D Healy, D O'Hanlon; J Doyle, C Dunford; M Kavanagh, C Dwyer, S Maher; C Bolger, M Russell, J Fagan. Subs: T Nolan for Russell (50).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)
Sunday Indo Sport