Fitzgibbon Cup action begins this weekend as Limerick Colleges again amongst favourites.
The 2018 Fitzgibbon Cup kicks off this weekend with a number of games taking place around the country. Cork rivals UCC and CIT kick off the competition this Thursday evening in what promises to be a eventful match-up. Mary I will once again look to defend their title after back-to-back wins, their maiden titles. As usual there will be much Limerick interest with UL, LIT and the aforementioned Mary I perennial contenders for the crown.
This year will see a change in format from other years. Some group games will now be taking place on Sundays and the semi-finals and final will no longer take place over a weekend. The Quarter finals of the competition will take place on Wednesday February 7, with the semi finals the following week on the 13th. The final will be staged in Mallow on February 24.
Here we preview the three Limerick colleges and look at their chances in the prestigious competition.
Mary Immaculate College
The champions of 2016 and 2017 will be confident of their chances once more this year with a number of players hoping to win a third Fitzgibbon cup medal. Mary I open their campaign with a difficult trip to Carlow to face last years finalists. Carlow have serious options and boast the likes of Waterford’s Colin Dunford and Jason Cleere of Kilkenny. This tie should decide the winners of the group.
Trinity College and NUIG make up a tricky group. Trinity are an up and coming side and will provide the champions with a test. NUIG have Young Hurler of the Year Conor Whelan at their disposal and will cause Mary I some problems. However, the reigning kingpins should have too much firepower and make it safely through to the knockout stages where they have thrived the last number of years.
Aaron Gillane was on fire for the college 12 months ago and will be crucial to his teams chances again. Darragh O’Donovan, Cian Lynch and Luke Meade were also pivotal members of the Jamie Wall managed side last year and will be to the fore once again.
Carlow IT (Away) – 21/1
Trinity College (Home) -25/1
NUIG (Home) 1/2
Players to watch: Cian Lynch, Aaron Gillane, Darragh O’Donovan, Thomas Grimes (Limerick), Luke Meade (Cork) Thomas Monaghan (Galway)
With Davy Fitzgerald at the helm, LIT always have a chance in the Fitzgibbon Cup. They have been narrowly beaten by Mary I in the previous two semi-finals and will be eager to go at least one step further this year. Like all sides managed by Fitzgerald, they are a dogged outfit that combine hard work and physicality with supreme ball skills.
DCU will provide a test in the opener with the likes of Patrick Curran at their disposal. These sides met at the quarter final stage last year. They should have to much for the Dublin outfit and then look to the clash with the Garda College to secure their place in the last eight.
With Diarmaid Byrnes and David Dempsey standout players in the side, there will be huge Limerick interest in the college. Added to that the presence of some of last years freshers side including Peter Casey and William O’Meara, and the Bennet brothers from Waterford, LIT will be dark horses in the competition.
Manager: Davy Fitzgerald
DCU (Home)- 22/1
Garda College (Away)- 1/2
Players to watch: Diarmaid Byrnes, David Dempsey, Peter Casey, Andrew La Touche Cosgrave, William O’Meara (Limerick), David Reidy (Clare) Stephen Bennett, Kieran Bennett (Waterford)
UL will be desperate to win back the crown they last won in 2015 after beating WIT in a replay. They were shocked at the quarter final stage last year by a brilliant Carlow IT side and will be determined not to slip up this year. The Castletroy based college side have a squad stacked full of inter-county players and are under the tutelage of Gary Kirby this term.
First up is a tie with DIT on Sunday. The Dublin outfit aren’t a recognised hurling outfit so UL should open ther campaign with a comfortable victory. The tie with WIT should be very even with the Waterford college boasting a number of inter-county players such as Mark Fanning and Austin Gleeson. A win here will see UL through barring an unlikely loss in the opener.
A host of the Limerick U21 winners from 2015 and 2017 are available to Kirby such as Mike Casey, Tom Morrissey, Pat Ryan, Gearoid Hegarty, Ronan Lynch, Barry Nash, and Kyle Hayes among others. Futhermore All Ireland winners John McGrath, Jason Forde and Tony Kelly also line out for the college.
Manager: Gary Kirby
DIT (Home)- 21/1
WIT (Away)- 1/2
Players to watch: Gearoid Hegarty, Ronan Lynch, Kyle Hayes, Mike Casey , Tom Morrissey , Barry Nash, Pat Ryan(Limerick) Tony Kelly, Conor Cleary (Clare) John McGrath, Jason Forde, Barry Heffernan (Tipperary)