A 30-YEAR wait ended for NUI Galway at the weekend when they won the Fitzgibbon Cup title for the first time since 1980.
The competition hosts did it the hard way, coming from behind in both their semi-final and final to win by the narrowest of margins after extra time in each case.
They went into Friday’s semi-final against Limerick IT as outsiders but at the end of a cracking tie, they were a point in front, 1-24 to 1-23.
There was a huge Clare following at this tie in Dangan, which wasn’t surprising given that there was a very big Clare representation in both sides.
The Davy Fitzgerald-managed Limerick side had James Gunning (Broadford), Conor Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills) and Cathal Chaplin (Broadford) in the full-back line with Nicky O’Connell (Clonlara) at wing-back and James McInerney (Newmarket) at centre-back. Seán Collins (Cratloe) was at midfield, with Bernard Gaffney (Newmarket) at left full-forward.
Meanwhile, NUI Galway lined out with Donal Tuohy (Crusheen) as goalkeeper, Diarmuid Nash (Scariff) at corner-back, Pat Kelly (Clarecastle) at wing-back, Domhnaill O’Donovan (Clonlara) at midfield, his twin brother Cormac at wing-forward with David Barrett (Newmarket) on the other wing and John Conlon (Clonlara) at full-forward. Caimin Morey from Sixmilebridge was introduced during the tie and he made a vital contribution.
Just before the end of normal time, the Galway side suffered a major blow when David Barrett, who had an excellent game, was sent off on a straight red card following a tackle on Seán Collins. Tipperary’s Seamus Hennessy hit the equalising point to force extra time and here it was point for point before Galway snatched the winning score.
In the other semi-final Waterford IT, with Enda Barrett (Newmarket) at centre-back, proved too strong for a University of Limerick side that included Tulla’s Andrew Quinn.
In Saturday’s final, which was played at Pearse Stadium, NUI lined out with seven Claremen in their first 15, Caimin Morey in from the start on this occasion, with David Barrett losing out due to suspension. Morey was at full-forward, with John Conlon on the 40.
The Galway students looked to be in trouble when they trailed by six points at half-time and they went further behind early in the second half. However, they battled back and a goal from Morey played a huge part in getting them into contention.
Again, extra time was required and here Clonlara’s John Conlon proved to be the hero, hitting the winning point at the very death to give them a 1-17 to 1-16 victory.
There were great scenes of celebration when the trophy was presented to their captain, Finian Coone.
Other Claremen who were part of the victorious panel were Noel Casey (Kilmaley), Niall Keane (Ballyea), Kevin Heagney (Corofin), David Reidy (Wolfe Tones), Paul Nihill (Clonlara) and Neil Ryan (Newmarket).
Crusheen’s Michael O’Connor, the Gaelic Games officer at the college, was a member of the selection committee.
Enda Barrett was one of the stars of the losers’ line-up while Ogonnelloe’s Henry Vaughan came into the action and scored a point in extra time.
Meanwhile, IT Carlow, with John Culhane from the Smith O’Brien’s club in their panel, won the Ryan Cup (Division 2) title. In the semi-final they beat a Tralee side that had Fergus Kennedy (Crusheen), Stephen Guilfoyle (Éire Óg) and Thomas Downes (Cooraclare) in their line-up.