Gallant NUIG reap reward
FITZGIBBON CUP FINAL/NUIG 1-17 Waterford 1-6 AET :NUIG BRIDGED a 30-year gap when they captured the Fitzgibbon Cup in dramatic circumstances at Pearse Stadium on Saturday.
Waterford IT, bidding for their fifth title in eight years, seemed poised for victory when they led by 1-11 to 0-5 after 49 minutes, but remarkably they failed to score for the remainder of normal time.
John Lee, whose switch to centre-back helped instigate their comeback in the final, said they were extremely keen to win it this year for college GAA officer and former Roscommon footballer Tony ‘Horse’ Regan who is retiring after decades of service.
“I am just delighted for ‘Horse’ Regan. After more than 30 years involved this is his retirement present. Of all the people involved it is for him, we really wanted to win this for him more than anyone. That’s what makes it so sweet,” said Lee.
“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,” said Lee.
In the end promising Clare U-21 John Conlon seized the moment to shoot the winner to claim NUIG’s first title since 1980.
Conlon must have felt his Fitzgibbon Cup final was over when he was subbed with four minutes left in normal time. But he was drafted back on in extra-time and emerged as the match-winner as, ironically, the man who replaced him, James O’Gorman, levelled in stoppage time before Conlon snatched the title with a point from 25 yards.
NUIG’s exertions in the semi-final seemed to have proved costly as they were sluggish in the opening 40 minutes.
But the switching of Lee to centre-back, coupled with the emergence of the likes of Seamus Hennessy, Patrick Kelly and Caimin Morey, hauled the hosts back into it as Waterford’s scoring dried up.
Waterford, who led 1-7 to 0-4 at the break thanks to a fine goal from Timmy Hammersley, buckled under the the challenge. A superb goal from Clare U-21 star 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 Hammersley and Henry Vaughan putting them back in front. NUIG skipper Finian Coone levelled before Hammersley brought his total to 1-11. But NUIG never gave up and O’Gorman levelled before Conlon sealed victory.
NUI GALWAY: D Tuohy; D Nash, J Lee, D Connolly; P Gordon, S Hennessy (0-3, two frees), P Kelly; B Daly (0-1), D O’Donovan; J Conlon (0-2), K Keehan, C O’Donovan; G Kelly, C Morey (1-1), F Coone (0-9, six frees, one 65). Subs: JP O’Connell for C O’Donovan (ht), S Quinlan for Keehan (ht); J O’Gorman (0-1) 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 (0-2), R Good; T Hammersley (1-11, nine frees), K Grehan, R McLoughney (0-2). Subs: K Reade for Good (42 mins), S Power for Grehan (53), W O’Dwyer for Molloy (56), H Vaughan (0-1) for Power (60).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).