Hennessy talks up NUIG's rocky road to success
NUI Galway 1-17
Waterford IT 1-16
Fitzgibbon cup final
Tipperary hurler Seamus Hennessy -- who landed the last-gasp points that sent the semi-final and final to extra-time -- reckoned that tough group games all season had moulded NUI Galway into a winning side.
Hennessy himself showed great nerve to force Saturday's decider at Pearse Stadium into extra-time, repeating his feat of the previous day when a gripping contest with red-hot favourites Limerick IT also went to an extra 20 minutes.
In the end it was the promising Clare U-21 player John Conlon who seized the moment when he shot the match-winner in stoppage-time at the end of extra-time.
"This is a massive success for the college and it is just wonderful to be part of it," Hennessy said. "Even in the group games we were under pressure, but the one thing this team has is character -- and the willingness to keep going till the bitter end.
"We built that up during the year and it served us well in the semi-final and final."
Conlon must have felt his final was over when he was subbed with four minutes left in normal time.
But he was brought back on in extra-time and emerged as the hero as, ironically, the man who initially replaced him, James O'Gorman, levelled in stoppage-time before Conlon seized the moment to snatch the title with a point from 25 yards.
NUIG's exertions in edging out LIT in Friday's 1-24 to 1-23 thriller after extra-time seemed to have come with a heavy price as they were sluggish for the opening 40 minutes and Waterford IT seemed poised for victory when they led by 1-11 to 0-5 after 49 minutes.
Remarkably, Waterford failed to score for the remainder of normal time and the switching of John Lee to centre-back, coupled with the emergence of the likes of Hennessy, Patrick Kelly and Caimin Morey, hauled the hosts back into it. Waterford, who led by 1-7 to 0-4 at the break thanks for a fine goal from Timmy Hammersly, were just not able to deal with the challenge.
A superb goal from Morey gave momentum to the NUIG fightback after 42 minutes and the revival was completed when Hennessy levelled in the dying seconds.
NUI Galway led by 1-14 to 1-13 at the interval in extra-time, but Waterford held the edge after the restart, with Hammersly and Henry Vaughan putting them back in front.
NUIG skipper Finian Coone levelled before Hammersly brought his total to 1-11. But NUIG never gave up and as the game slipped into stoppage-time, sub O'Gorman levelled before Shane Quinlan set Conlon up for the match-winner.
The victory ended 30 years of frustration and heartbreak for the Galway college and no one was more thrilled than Galway defender Lee.
"I am six years in college trying to win this and it is one hell of a tough competition to win," Lee said. "All year we had our backs against the wall. We were seven points down against DIT and came back. We were three down against UCD and came back; all year we have done the same."
Lee also paid tribute to College GAA officer and former Roscommon footballer Tony 'Horse' Regan, who is retiring after decades of service.
"I am just delighted for 'Horse' Regan," Lee added. "After more than 30 years involved, this is his retirement present. We really wanted to win this for him more than anyone. That's what makes it so sweet."
Scorers -- NUI Galway: F Coone 0-9 (0-6f, 0-1 '65), C Morey 1-1, S Hennessy 0-3 (0-2f), J Conlon 0-2, B Daly, J O'Gorman 0-1 each. Waterford IT: T Hammersly 1-11 (0-9f), R McLoughney, B O'Meara 0-2 each, H Vaughan 0-1.
NUI Galway -- D Tuohy; D Nash, J Lee, D Connolly; P Gordon, S Hennessy, P Kelly; B Daly, D O'Donovan; J Conlon, K Keehan, C O'Donovan; G Kelly, C Morey, F Coone. Subs: JP O'Connell for C O'Donovan (h-t), S Quinlan for Keehan (h-t), J O'Gorman for Conlon (56), Conlon for Kelly (60).
Waterford IT -- A Power; B Kenny, S Fives, N Connors; W Hutchinson, E Barrett, PJ Rowe; R McCarthy, M Molloy; F O'Leary, B O'Meara, R Good; T Hammersly, K Grehan, R McLoughney. Subs: K Reade for Good (42), S Power for Grehan (53), W O'Dwyer for Molloy (56), H Vaughan for Power (60).
Ref -- D Kirwan (Cork).