NUI Galway reached the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-finals with a 0-17 to 0-12 victory over rivals GMIT at Carnmore yesterday, but they will need to improve massively to progress any further.
Last week’s shock win over UCC set up their progression, and once the Cork college failed to beat UL and word filtered through to Galway, the celebrations started.
Bobby Duggan was the scorer in chief for NUI Galway again, but their creative force is Westmeath's Niall O'Brien. He proved an elusive opponent for the GMIT defence, and he thinks last week's win has given them the belief to progress further again.
“Today we knew we needed results elsewhere, but we needed a win here ourselves and thankfully we ground out the win. We play CIT or UCD now, so that won’t be easy either, but we’re looking forward to it now,” said O’Brien.
“It is probably a shock to everyone else that we’re through but we knew if we played well we had a great chance to progress.”
In truth the zip and skill levels were missing from both sides yesterday, and John Paul O’Connell and his management will have to inspire a great improvement ahead of next week’s last eight tie.
Tadhg Haran's four frees had given GMIT a 0-4 to 0-2 lead by the 13th minute, but Duggan soon found his range at the other end and a couple of frees from the Clare man were added to by Shane Cooney and Cathal Mannion as NUIG took over. They never trailed again after that.
NUI Galway manager O'Connell was sent from the line in bizarre circumstances in the 58th minute after he ran alongside GMIT's Paul Hoban as he shot for goal, but when Jason Flynn's late free was cleared off the line, GMIT had no way back.
DIT needed a strong finish to secure a 1-20 to 0-22 win over a surprisingly competitive UU side and book their place in the quarter-finals of the Fitzgibbon Cup.
A goal from Westmeath’s Derek McNicholas in the 57th minute helped turn the tide as DIT came from three points and hit an unanswered 1-5 in the last seven minutes at Jordanstown yesterday.
In a fiercely contested first half, the sides were level six times and tied at 0-11 at the break.
Some eye-catching scores from McNicholas, Wicklow's Michael Lee and Wexford star Jack Guiney were matched at the other end of the field with Tyrone's Damien Casey the most dangerous UU forward.
When DIT went 0-15 to 0-13 ahead in the third quarter, it seemed they had possibly weathered the storm, but UU battled hard and came from two points down to push ahead by 0-20 to 0-17 after 52 minutes, substitute Danny Toner with three of their points.
Stephen McAfee also had a goal chance well blocked when they were on top, and Toner was unable to get the rebound past the prostrate DIT goalkeeper Paddy McKenna.
DIT remained calm and a flurry of late scores from Wexford star Jack Guiney and Derek McNicholas’s goal swung the game decisively in their favour.
After a free from sub Daryl Roberrts, Guiney scored a point and then punished a bad puck out to land another point inside 30 seconds. McNicholas' goal came a minute later and with time running out, Guiney's free secured DIT's safe passage to the knockout stages.