We’ve reached the penultimate stage in the Electric Ireland Higher Education Fitzgibbon Cup with four teams battling it out for a place in the final.
On Saturday, 2017 winners Mary Immaculate College face DJ Carey’s IT Carlow (2 pm) in the first of a semi-final double-header in the DCU Sportsgrounds. While, later that day, reigning champions UCC take on DCU DÉ (4 pm).
All four teams topped their groups and came through tough quarter-final fixtures. Mary I narrowly overcame neighbouring rivals UL after extra time, goal-hungry IT Carlow beat NUIG, UCC came out on top against UCD while DCU booked their spot in the semi-finals with a win over Waterford IT.
Ahead of Saturday’s games, which are being streamed live by Electric Ireland, we spoke to three-time winner and Waterford legend, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, to get his thoughts on the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final match-ups.
Mary I v IT Carlow
“If you go on names, you can be deceived in the Fitzgibbon. IT Carlow and Mary I, they’re small colleges, they probably all meet each other on a daily basis. That brings a lot to it.
“IT Carlow have been knocking on the door for a number of years and they’re putting massive emphasis on that. I know Mick Dempsey is above and obviously DJ [Carey]. They’re mad to win a Fitzgibbon”, Walsh continued.
“Mary I, another small, close-knit college. No history in the competition up to five or six years ago and have been involved in the thick of it ever since. They’re both coming together at the same time but both wouldn’t have had an esteemed past history in it.
“Often with the Fitzgibbon, you can read through the names and say ‘ah you’ve no hope against them, look at that team on paper.’ But often winter hurling, fellas with real drive and motivation can come out top and make an inter-county team look very ordinary.”
The last time the two sides met was in the 2017 final when Mary I prevailed on a scoreline of 3-24 to 1-19. Jamie Wall’s side have amassed an impressive haul of 9-75 so far in this year’s tournament with Gary Cooney being their main poacher while Cathal Bourke has been so reliant from placed balls.
Meanwhile, after suffering two heartbreaking defeats in the knockout stages in recent years, IT Carlow will be desperate to reach only their second-ever final.
Carey has a number of inter-county stars to choose from this season with Cathal Dunbar, Niall Brassil and Enda Rowland all impressing so far.
DCU v UCC
“When you highlight players, you can be sure that DCU are saying ‘you need to take down him’. UCC have a lot of household names, top-class inter-county players. That said, while the scoring has been very high in all the Fitzgibbon games so far this year, it doesn’t necessarily lead to that,” said Walsh.
“It’s still winter hurling, maybe the more skilled players wouldn’t look as good in summer hurling so there is an opportunity for the likes of DCU to get on top, maybe not through fantastic hurling, but through pure grit and determination”.
UCC certainly have a star-studded panel to call upon, with Cork stars Shane Kingston, Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon all involved as are Kerry’s Shane Conway and Limerick’s Paddy O’Loughlin who have all starred this season. After a narrow victory over NUIG in round one, UCC overcame neighbours CIT before seeing off UCD in the Mardyke with the in-form Kingston scoring the crucial goal.
However, they come up against a hungry DCU side who have been the eye-catching side throughout this year’s Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup championship.
Like UCC, Eoin Roche’s side boasts a number of inter-county names. John Donnelly, Rory O’Connor, Donal Burke and Damien Reck have been among their chief playmakers and having experienced the hurt of last year’s loss at the semi-final stage to UCC, they will be desperate for the win on home soil.
Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh’s Fitzgibbon Cup final prediction:
“You’d have to look at UCC, they probably are the team that are going to get through. I suppose on the other side it’s probably a toss-up between the two of them. You’d probably have to go with Carlow on that side. You never know.”
Three-time Fitzgibbon Cup winner, Michael Walsh and Seamus Moynihan, legends of the game, were speaking ahead of the Electric Ireland Higher Education Feile Weekend which plays host to the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup Semi-Finals.
Electric Ireland has live-streamed a number of key games throughout the 2020 season to date and will stream both Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals this weekend, visit either www.Electricireland.ie/HEC or www.Gaa.ie/GAANow to access the streams.
Electric Ireland’s First Class Rivals campaign in 2020 celebrates the unique aspect of the Electric Ireland Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups which sees the formation of unexpected alliances when county rivals unite to play for their college in pursuit of one common goal.