Independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup Final
Mary Immaculate College 3-24 IT Carlow 1-19.
By John Fallon at Pearse Stadium
Mary Immaculate College from Limerick retained the Fitzgibbon Cup in style at Salthill with the reigning champions never trailing in an entertaining final.
DJ Carey’s IT Carlow had hoped to become the 10th college to win the crown, but the day belonged to Mary I and their manager Jamie Wall.
The former Cork dual player was on the Mary I team which lost in its first Fitzgibbon Cup final appearance in 2013 at this venue but he has been confined to a wheelchair for the past few years due to an illness.
Mary I used the strong wind in the opening half and deservedly led by double scores at 0-16 to 0-8 at the end of a free-flowing opening half.
The champions wasted little time in getting on top and points from Michael O’Neill, Aaron Gillane, and Conor Twomey in the opening four minutes gave them a strong foothold.
However IT Carlow, appearing in their first final, did not panic and Stephen Maher got them off the mark after five minutes with the first of five pointed frees which he hit in the opening half.
Limerick’s Darragh O’Donovan hit two points from sidelines for Mary I, while Tipperary’s Ronan Maher was superb as he struck four with the wind, three of them frees from long range.
Those scores saw the holders continue to push further ahead and they led by 0-9 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter.
IT Carlow, though, kept hanging in there with Waterford’s Colin Dunford and Charles Dwyer scoring good points.
Mary I finished the opening half strongly with former All-Star Colm Galvin hitting a point and Limerick’s Cian Lynch bringing his haul to 0-3 to lead by eight at the break.
Two more frees by Maher cut the gap in the opening four minutes of the second-half, but O’Neill hit back with his third point for Mary I.
And then a delivery from Luke Meade broke for O’Donovan to dispatch the ball to the net with a one-handed strike and make it 1-17 to 0-10 after 36 minutes with Conor Twomey extending the lead with a point from distance.
But IT Carlow never gave up and points from Martin Kavanagh and Maher gave them hope as they reduced the margin to 1-20 to 0-14 going into the final quarter.
Then Mary I struck another huge blow when Gillane blasted home a penalty after he was fouled by Kevin Hannfinn with 12 minutes left.
Maher got a goal for Carlow six minutes from time but the gap was too big to bridge for the newcomers.
Mary I sealed the win when sub Pa Ryan finished to the net after Gillane’s shot was saved by Enda Rowland.
Scorers for Mary I: A Gillane 1-5 (1-0 pen, 4fs), D O’Donovan 1-3 (0-2 sl), R Maher 0-4 (3fs), P Ryan 1-0, M O’Neill 0-3, C Lynch 0-3, C Twomey 0-3, C Galvin 0-1, L Meade 0-1, S Cahill 0-1.
Scorers for IT Carlow: S Maher 1-13 (12fs), C Dunford 0-2, C Dwyer 0-2, M Kavanagh 0-1, C Bolger 0-1.
Mary Immaculate College: Ciaran Barrett; David Sweeney, Richie English, Eoin Quirke; Conor Twomey, Ronan Maher, Alan Flynn; Colm Galvin, Stephen Cahill; Darragh O’Donovan, Michael O’Neill, Aaron Gillane; Tadhg Gallagher, Cian Lynch, Luke Meade.
Substitutes: Thomas Monaghan for Gallagher (half-time), Pa Ryan for O’Neill (55), Sean Burke for Gillane (63).
IT Carlow: Enda Rowland; Dwayne Palmer, Kevin Hannafin, Ross Browne; Robert Moran, Damian Healy, Dale O’Hanlon; James Doyle, Colin Dunford; Martin Kavanagh, Charles Dwyer, Stephen Maher; Chris Bolger, Mark Russell, Jack Fagan.
Substitute: Tommy Nolan for Russell (50).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).