Na Piarsaigh 3-11
THE STUDENTS COMPLETED the last four line-up tonight in the Cork senior hurling title race, UCC claiming a grip on this clash in the second half and successfully holding off Na Piarsaigh.
Cork All-Ireland winner Tom Kenny watched his side pull clear by six at the final whistle and that was a merited position. The outcome propels them into a semi-final meeting with Blackrock. It’s 21 years since the pair met in a decider with Blackrock running out convincing victors, a 2020 final spot is now the prize on offer.
A compressed schedule is customary for UCC players when they journey deep into the championship. Between Limerick hurling, Kerry football and Cork club games, six of their starting side had been in combat yesterday. Those players adapted though, Padraig Power shooting 1-4 after helping his club Blarney win a county quarter-final last night. Paddy O’Loughlin stood tall at the heart of defence after tasting disappointment in Limerick with Kilmallock.
The first half of this one was a wild and frantic affair with five goals registered as the momentum shifted regularly between the teams. UCC at times looked capable of accelerating clear, Power picking a spot in the bottom corner of the net after only 14 seconds. He shot 1-3 in the opening period while Kerry’s Shane Conway chipped in with 0-5 in that time frame.
Brian Kelleher smashed home a second UCC goal in the 10th minute, a rebound after a terrific block by Na Piarsaigh goalkeeper Luke Donovan to first deny Owen McCarthy.
Those scores may have rocked Na Piarsaigh but it did not deflate as they kept recovering in that opening period, sustained by a trio of goals that they notched. Shane Forde, a strong and forceful presence in their half-forward line, cut through the UCC defence for one while Padraig Guest showed his opportunism to score a brace.
One of those arrived after a mix-up in the UCC rearguard but netminder Dylan Desmond atoned for that with a brilliant reflex save to late deny Kevin Moynihan.
It was 2-11 to 3-7 in favour of UCC at the break but the highly enjoyable early fare was not replicated thereafter. Na Piarsaigh, who had only four scorers throughout, battled away with Christopher Joyce and Daire Connery prominent but UCC had a wider spread of influential figures.
Mark Coleman, O’Loughlin and David Lowney mopped up possession at the back, Conway was unerring from frees as he finished top scorer with 0-9 and they brought on Tipperary All-Ireland winner Mark Kehoe to good effect as he landed a brace of scores.
After knocking out the champions Imokilly, this was another productive Sunday evening display. A second semi-final appearance in three seasons awaits.
Scorers for UCC: Shane Conway 0-9 (0-7f), Padraig Power 1-4, Brian Kelleher 1-0, Mark Kehoe 0-2, Brian Verling, Mark Coleman (0-1f), James Keating, Shane Barrett, Eanna Desmond 0-1 each.
Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: Evan Sheehan 0-6 (0-4f), Padraig Guest 2-0, Shane Forde 1-1, Daire Connery 0-4 (0-2 ’65, 0-1f).