Thirteen points from Tipperary forward Gearoid O’Connor saw UL edge out SETU Waterford in an entertaining Fitzgibbon Cup semi final at Carriganore.
Dean Mason double save in the second half was the turning point for the defending champions. Limerick defender Colin Coughlin also stepped up with three points from play and a goal-saving hook.
Sam and Josh Fitzgerald defended heroically for SETU while Déise senior star Padraig Fitzgerald scored four points from play. Seven second-half wides proved costly.
The home side led 6-3 after nine minutes. Reuben Halloran hit three points with Gavin Fives, Paul Cody and Padraig Fitzgerald also on target. The champions responded with five unanswered points. Gearoid O’Connor converted five frees before Diarmuid Hannify struck their first from play. Limerick’s Colin Coughlin shot a screamer from 70 metres. Tipperary’s Bryan O’Mara landed another from distance to make it 8-6.
Off the puckout, Sean Walsh set off on a solo run and split the posts tight to the sideline. Three Halloran frees edged the locals back in front. Padraig Fitzgerald fired his second point before Billy Nolan belted over a monster free from inside his own half. It was 12-8 to Fintan O’Connor’s men after 26 minutes. Gearoid O’Connor dragged his side level by the break at 12 apiece with four points in a row, including a huge free.
Six minutes into the second period, UL shot stopper Dean Mason made an amazing double save from Gavin Fives and Sean Walsh. Bryan O’Mara pointed at the other end to put the champions 14-13 in front. A game changer. O’Connor added two more points to his tally. Halloran missed two frees for the hosts before Colin Coughlin hooked Paul Cody as he advanced on goal. Coughlin then lashed over his second point from play to make it 0-17 to 0-13. Padraig Fitzgerald got SETU’s first point in thirteen minutes. SETU twice narrowed the gap to two in the last quarter but Coughlin and O’Connor hit back.
Billy Nolan saw an injury-time free saved on the line as UL held on.
Scorers for UL: G O’Connor 0-13 (11fs), C Coughlin 0-3, B O’Mara 0-2, D Hannify 0-1.
Scorers for SETU Waterford: R Halloran 0-8 (7fs), P Fitzgerald 0-4, B Nolan (f), S Walsh, P Cody, G Fives 0-1 each.
UL: D Mason (Kilkenny); M Fitzgerald (Waterford), TJ Brennan (Galway), M Gough (Clare); C Coughlin (Limerick), B O’Mara (Tipperary), D Corcoran (Kilkenny); B O’Sullivan (Cork), K Sampson (Offaly); A English (Limerick), G O’Connor (Tipperary), S Twomey (Cork); D Hannify (Galway), M Kiely (Waterford), J Power (Waterford).
Subs: S Staunton (Kilkenny) for Gough (39), I Byrne (Kilkenny) for Hannify (51), C Darcy (Tipperary) for English (55).
SETU Waterford: (Waterford unless stated): B Hennessy (Limerick); C Ryan, S Fitzgerald, J Fitzgerald; M O’Brien, B Nolan, S Purcell (Kilkenny); J Prendergast, J Harkin (Kilkenny); P Cody (Kilkenny), G Fives, S Walsh (Cork); P Fitzgerald, R Halloran, A Kirwan.
Referee: J Owens (Wexford)