Power and Bergin reel in gritty students as Cats squeeze through
Kilkenny 0-17 NUI
Both sides got something useful out of this game – the students gained valuable experience for the Fitzgibbon Cup and Kilkenny enjoyed the benefit of a good workout as they look to shape a team for this season's U-21 campaign.
A Walsh Cup game on a wet, cold and generally miserable day in January is not the ideal testing ground, but it has its benefits.
"Our focus is on the Fitzgibbon Cup," insisted NUIG manager Johnny Kelly.
"We did well against Westmeath last week and to get the chance to then play Kilkenny was worth 10 training sessions to us.
"All I could ask of the players was to battle hard and give what was in them. They did that."
The Kilkenny U-21 team boss Richie Mulrooney was in charge of a team that was described as a 'development squad'. "The players dug out a good win," he said of the effort.
"Because we had a new team, it took us a long time to find our way. In the second half we chased the game well, and it was nice to sneak a win in the end."
Victory earned a last-four clash against Wexford, who beat Offaly by 1-24 to 1-14. The semi-final offers another chance for players to audition for the bigger hurling production later in the season.
Kilkenny took to the field without any of their All-Ireland team, and points during the closing two minutes from John Power and Mark Bergin saw off the students, who had led for most of the way.
Galway star Niall Burke, who struck nine points, converted a free to leave the losers two ahead nine minutes from the end.
The four scores that followed were claimed by the Cats to give them victory.
NUIG were the better team during the opening half. After shooting seven wides, they were not at all flattered when leading by 0-10 to 0-8 at the break. Burke shot four of their scores.
Kelly's men hurled really well defensively during most of the second half. Twice during this period they managed to nudge four points in front, but they just couldn't hold off the Cats' late surge.
Scorers – Kilkenny: J Power 0-8 (7f), R Reid 0-3 (1f), S Donnelly, M Kelly, M Ruth, S Maher, M Power, M Bergin 0-1 each. NUIG – N Burke 0-9 (0-8f), D Higgins, K Downes 0-2 each, J Cooney, A Cunningham 0-1 each.
Kilkenny – A Duggan; J Corcoran, P Keating, B Kennedy; C Martin, J Holden, O McGrath; T Breen, R Reid; M Bergin, M Kelly, R Hickey; M Ruth, S Maher, J Power. Subs: M Power for Hickey (13), G Teehan for Holden (h-t), S Donnelly for Maher (41).
NUIG – D Touhy; D Magner, E Fahy, K Moynihan; L Markham, B Flaherty, S McCormack; J Cooney, E Glynn; D Higgins, N Burke, K Downes; A Cunningham, G O'Donoghue, N Deasy. Sub: E Teagle for O'Donoghue (58).
Ref – B Gavin (Offaly).