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Match-winner O'Brien hails O'Grady factor as UL take title

University of Limerick hero Thomas O'Brien praised the Donal O'Grady effect after clinching victory for his side in a classic final against city rivals Limerick IT in Waterford on Saturday.

O'Brien -- introduced as a 48th- minute substitute -- improvised brilliantly for a decisive goal in the second minute of injury-time as he was hunted down by LIT defenders.

With no room to swing the hurl, O'Brien batted the ball past Matthew Ryan to secure a first Fitzgibbon Cup success since 2002 for UL, who were beaten finalists against LIT in '05 and against UCC two years ago.

Patrickswell star O'Brien, who played for Justin McCarthy's experimental Limerick in 2010, has held onto his place under new boss O'Grady.

And the 21-year-old revealed: "There was no point in going for a point. I didn't think of the scoreline. Donal O'Grady has been drilling it into our heads to bat in the goals, so that nobody can hook you."

The sides were deadlocked at 0-17 to 2-11 before O'Brien's goal and the nature of his finish caught the eye of team-mate and Cork senior Pa Cronin, who hit four brilliant points from play.


O'Brien smiled: "Pa Cronin knew that it was Donal's tactic -- he said it to me afterwards."

LIT led by nine points on two separate occasions in the first half and went in at half-time 2-7 to 0-7 clear, aided by goals from Limerick pair Sean Tobin and Donie Reale.

But UL, playing with the stiff breeze in the second half, were a team transformed and, inspired by man of the match David Burke in midfield, Ger Cunningham's charges came roaring back.

Tipperary's Paul Kelly, Cork star Cronin and former Clare ace Andrew Quinn were also influential and hit four points each.

UL's victory was achieved without suspended Offaly star Shane Dooley -- who lost an appeal on the morning of the game having been sent off against Cork IT in Friday's semi-final.

A tie that had been level twice in the closing minutes appeared destined for extra-time before O'Brien struck. And LIT finished the game with 14 men as Willie Hyland was sent off seconds after O'Brien's goal.

Scorers -- UL: P Cronin, P Kelly (1f), A Quinn (3f) 0-4 each, T O'Brien 1-0, D Burke 0-3, B Carroll, B Beckett 0-1 each. LIT: D Reale 1-1, S Tobin 1-0, B Gaffney (3f), J McInerney (3f) 0-3 each, P Browne, P O'Brien, S Collins, J Hayes 0-1 each.

UL -- T Lowry; P Stapleton, M Walsh, S Hickey; PJ Delaney , B Bugler, K Joyce; D Burke, P Cronin; B Carroll, B Beckett, P Murphy; K Morris, P Kelly, A Quinn. Subs: M Boran for Murphy (27), T Connors for Boran (h-t), T O'Brien for Beckett (48), J Gallagher for Carroll (58).

LIT -- M Ryan; E Glynn, C Cone, C Cooney; J Hayes, J McInerney, J O'Keeffe; S Lambert, P O'Brien; D Reale, S Collins, P Browne; B Gaffney, S Tobin, W Hyland. Sub: C Madden for Gaffney (55).

Ref -- M Wadding (Waterford).

Irish Independent