Hurling & Camogie

‘The best competition in Ireland’ - Mary Immaculate win Fitzgibbon Cup

University of Limerick v Mary Immaculate College - Electric Ireland Higher Education GAA Fitzgibbon Cup Final The Mary Immaculate team celebrate with the Fitzgibbon Cup after their win over University of Limerick at Abbeydorney PICTURE: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile (Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup final: Mary Immaculate 2-14 University of Limerick 1-15

JAMIE Wall thinks the Fitzgibbon Cup is the best tournament the GAA has to offer – and it was easy to see the attraction after his Mary Immaculate side beat city rivals University of Limerick in Saturday’s decider.

UL were gunning to be the first side since University College Cork in the 1990s to win three Fitzgibbons in-a-row, but they hit a brick wall in the north Kerry countryside as they were out-hurled by their near neighbours.

Mary Immaculate led by four at half-time, but they would have been concerned by the 13 wides they registered before the break. All the goals came in the first-half - Devon Ryan and a fortuitous Jason Gillane effort for Immaculate and Gearoid O’Connor replying with a neat finish for UL.

While the forward line of UL struggled to make a mark on the game, three long-range Gillane frees, plus Cathal Quinn and Diarmuid Ryan strikes gave Mary Immaculate the edge.

UL built momentum after the break and Brian Ryan’s side took seven of the eight scores in the third quarter, Colin Coughlan and subs Colm O’Meara and Ian Bryne finding their range. From here, it seemed the Castletory side held all the cards, but points from Devon Ryan and captain Colin O’Brien helped Mary Immaculate over the finishing line.

“It’s the best competition in the GAA as far as I’m concerned,” Wall, who has been on the Mary Immaculate coaching staff for much of the last decade, told Jerome Quinn on the final whistle.

“No, look, it’s something that for the people involved, it’s such an emotional thing. I saw during the week, University of Ulster won [the Sigerson Cup], Tommy Joe [Farrell] who has given so many years there. You remember Dave Billing in UCD, guys like Eamonn Cregan in Mary I, who was in charge for so long before he won it. Every college has these guys. It’s not about the hurling really.”

Emotions were high as Wall celebrated with his cousin Podge Collins on the sideline after Saturday’s win, but he was quickly able to bring a sense of perspective to the affair in Abbeydorney: “Our thing is about those young fellas, them growing up, help them get through college, get their degrees, become part of our world,” he added.

“To see them go on now and become the teachers of the world, it’s such an encouraging thing. They are brilliant fellas and will be brilliant role models. The future is bright.

“I am so proud of the lads because it looked as if we had left it behind when they went two up. I think that is what makes the win the sweeter and more pleasing because it was not a stroll or a lucky break, we rallied and rallied and took the hits.

“They are smashing fellows and they are such role models. I mean just look at Cathal Quinn and the ball he won. We brought Shane ‘the Bull’ O’Brien out the field and he won ball out the field when it wasn’t coming in.

“He reminds me so much of when we had Aaron Gillane in second year, who was able to play inside and outside. He is still under 20 and his potential is frightening.”