McGrath finds his groove to keep UL title defence alive
University of Limerick 1-15 St Patrick's 1-11
If University of Limerick didn't already realise that it will be harder retaining their crown than it was to win it last year, they surely do now.
St Patrick's were the better team for most of the first half at Mobhi Road and established a 1-3 to 0-2 lead when their deadly free-taker Niall Arthur smashed a 21-yard free to the back of the net.
It was nothing less than they deserved. There was more energy and purpose to their play, and they were coping far better with the poor underfoot conditions.
However, bit by bit the defending champions asserted themselves -- thanks mainly to the energy and accuracy of centre-forward Cyril Donnellan, who clipped over three fine points before being forced off by an injury. His replacement Kieran Morris lasted only a couple of minutes before he also succumbed to injury.
You expected a half-time tongue-lashing from Brian Lohan would have ensured a much improved display after the break from UL -- but once again they struggled to hurl to their full potential as St Pat's, inspired by centre-back Martin Quilty, played their hearts out.
UL full-forward Conor McGrath was the only player who seemed capable of getting any change out of the stubborn St Pat's defence, and a sweet point from play and some steady free-taking meant UL were just about keeping their noses in front.
They finally established a decent lead when Bill Beckett lashed home a goal that put them five up, and though St Pat's responded immediately with two fine points, they never really looked like scoring the goal they needed to put real pressure on the UL defence.
Scorers -- UL: C McGrath 0-9 (6f), B Beckett 1-0, C Donnellan 0-3, L Markham, J Coen, J Gallagher 0-1 each.
St Patrick's: N Arthur 1-8 (1-7f), T Breen 0-2, K Nimmo 0-1.
UL -- T Lowry; P Stapleton, M Walsh, K Fox; L Ryan, P Maher , M Walsh; B Bugler, L Markham; B Beckett, C Donnellan, J Coen; J Regan, C McGrath, P Kelly. Subs: K Morris for C Donnellan (28), J Gallagher for K Morris (h-t), M Heffernan for J Regan (49), D Walton for J Coen (60).
St Patrick's -- S Murphy; D Glynn, D Wafer, D Byrne; N Ring , M Quilty, I Duggan; L Ryan, P Kehoe; T Breen, M Bergin , L French; K Nimmo, C Maher, N Arthur. Subs: D Wright for L French (45), DM Carroll for C Maher (55).
Ref -- A Stapleton (Laois)
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