DEFENDING champions UCC remain on course for a 42nd title after they edged past NUIG at the Mardyke.
Having led by 1-7 to 0-7 at half-time, after Brian O'Sullivan palmed a Seamus Harnedy delivery to the net, the home side looked good value to progress.
Points from Harnedy and Brian Murray pushed them further clear early in the second half, but poor free-taking prevented them from closing out the game.
With Galway star Niall Burke in excellent form for NUIG, the visitors slowly began to reel in their opponents as UCC struggled to find scores and a Burke free in the 56th minute tied the game at 1-11 to 0-14.
A draw would still have been enough for UCC to advance, but NUIG had a great chance to take the lead with a Burke free from halfway, but he pulled his effort wide.
After that let-off, points from Harnedy and Dara Fives gave UCC breathing space to secure top spot in Group A.
SCORERS – UCC: B O'Sullivan 1-1, S Harnedy (1f), P Haughney, C Lehane 0-3 each, B Hartnett (f), D Fives (f), B Murray 0-1 each. NUIG: N Burke 0-11 (7f), K Downes 0-2, J Cooney 0-1.
UCC – D McCarthy; S Maher, D Glynn, K Murphy; J Barry, L Egan, P Prendergast; B Lawton, P Haughney; B Hartnett, D McCormack, S Harnedy; B O'Sullivan, B Murray, C Lehane. Subs: D Fives for Prendergast (11-24, blood), A Breen for Hartnett (37), C Murphy for Murray (57), Fives for Prendergast (57), M Sugrue for McCormack (58).
NUIG – D Tuohy; D Magner, B Flaherty, K Moynihan; E Glynn, D Burke, S McCormack; L Markham, J Cooney; B Lane, K Downes, D Higgins; A Cunningham, N Burke, B Daly. Subs: G Donoghue for McCormack (16-17, blood), Donoghue for Cunningham (33), E Fahy for Magner (39), N Deasy (Clare) for Higgins (46).
REF – S Hourigan (Limerick).