The quarter-final stage of the Electric Ireland Higher Education Fitzgibbon Cup is upon us with four scintillating clashes in store.
The action begins on Wednesday afternoon with a local derby in Limerick before attention turns to the Mardyke in Cork where reigning champions UCC take on UCD.
On Thursday, there is the highly-anticipated clash of DCU and WIT, which will be streamed live on Electric Ireland while NUIG travel to face the high-flying IT Carlow.
Read our preview of the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-finals below.
Mary Immaculate College v University of Limerick: MICL Grounds, Wednesday, January 29, 2pm
After topping Group B, Mary I have been handed the home advantage in this intriguing Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final clash against neighbouring rivals UL. Jamie Wall’s men recorded two impressive victories over TU Dublin and LIT before narrowly overcoming Waterford IT in their battle last week. The side are extremely potent in front of goal, grabbing 10 across their three games to date, with Clare’s Gary Cooney their main poacher. They have also relied on the in-form Cathal Bourke for many of their scores from placed balls so UL will have to be wary of handing him easy opportunities.
Gary Kirby’s men finished as runners-up in Group A, recording two wins and a loss. That three-point loss came in the opening round against DCU but the Limerick side bounced back well with a strong victory over Trinity College before overcoming Maynooth in their final group game. Cian Darcy has been their top-scorer so far, racking up 2-30 across their three games while Jake Morris, Ronan Lynch and Michael Carey have also been in impressive form. Mary I will wear the favourites tag in this game, given their unbeaten run and their home advantage, but UL will prove their toughest opponents yet.
University College Cork v University College Dublin: Wednesday, January 29th, Mardyke, 6pm
Reigning champions UCC continue their quest to retain the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup when they welcome UCD to Cork on Wednesday evening. Tom Kingston’s side have enjoyed a 10-day break following their eight-point victory over CIT in their last group game. Prior to that, they narrowly overcame NUIG during an enthralling battle in Galway during the opening round. UCC have one of the strongest squads in the competition with Shane Conway and Shane Kingston both in top form. While they are yet to score a goal, they have plenty of dangerous forwards capable of netting.
UCD finished second in the other three-team group, having fell to IT Carlow in their first game. However, the Dublin college impressed for large stages of that game before producing a dominant 4-19 to 2-18 win over GMIT in the second round. Their goal-scoring threat was obvious that day with four different players all netting while they created many more opportunities. Ronan Hayes has been in phenomenal form with 1-22 for their two games, as have Paul Crummey and Rory Purcell. While the advantage is very much with UCC for this one, UCD will be confident of their ability to cause an upset in the Rebel county.
IT Carlow v NUI Galway: Thursday, January 30, Carlow IT, 6.30pm
After losing out in the quarter-final stage of the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup last year, IT Carlow will be desperate to progress to the final four when they host NUIG on Thursday. Like UCC, DJ Carey’s men haven’t had an outing in the competition for a lengthy period of time and will be raring to go following their unconvincing win over GMIT in their final group game. Carey has a host of inter-county stars to select from with Cathal Dunbar proving to be their biggest asset so far. The Wexford man has notched up 2-8 so far while Chris Nolan, Liam Blanchfield and Enda Rowland have also caught the eye.
NUIG’s loss to UCC in the opening round relegated them to the group runners-up spot but they will in no way fear travelling to IT Carlow given their form. Galway duo Evan Niland and Sean Loftus have led the charge for the Galway side with Niland so effective from frees, racking up 19 points from placed balls. Loftus has scored their only goal of the competition so far which came during the seven-point win over CIT in their final group game last week. Like IT Carlow, NUIG will be relying on the hurt from last year’s semi-final defeat to Mary I to propel them to the penultimate round once again.
DCU Dóchas Éireann v Waterford IT: Thursday, January 30, DCU Sportsgrounds, 7.30pm
A strong DCU outfit can enjoy home advantage in what will be a major battle for a spot in the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals against WIT on Thursday evening. Eoin Roche’s side are one of the favourites for the competition given the strength of their panel and they proved that win three strong wins in the group stage over UL, Maynooth and Trinity College. Donal Burke, Rory O’Connor, James Burke and Brian Ryan are all capable scorers for the Dublin side but they have plenty of talent throughout the pitch and on the bench which may prove vital against WIT.
Despite registering 5-45 in their opening two games, a two-point defeat to Mary I in their final group match left Waterford having to concede home advantage in the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-finals. Travelling to Dublin to face DCU is an intimidating task but Waterford are more than capable of the challenge with the talent they possess. Stephen Condon has been a huge asset to them from placed balls and while they will most likely be without Austin Gleeson for the clash, his Waterford teammates Tom Barron and Calum Lyons have been in incredible form while Connal Flood and Eddie Meaney have been lethal in front of goal.
Electric Ireland’s Sigerson, Fitzgibbon and Higher Education Championship campaign, FirstClassRivals, showcases the unique trait of these historic GAA competitions that sees unexpected alliances form when fierce county rivals put aside their differences to play together, challenge together, and win together.
Electric Ireland is proud to support the Higher Education Championships and will live stream a selection of Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup games. Watch the games and follow the Championship at www.electricireland.ie/hec and be a part of the conversation on social media using the hashtag, #FirstClassRivals or visit @ElectricIreland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.