In celebration of the centenary of the Fitzgibbon Cup competition, a committee appointed by Comhairle Ardoideachais CLG has selected the ‘Irish Daily Mail Fitzgibbon Cup Team of the Century’.
Following much deliberation, and particular consideration of criteria such as players’ consistent excellence, commitment to their college clubs, and eligibility, the committee selected the following team from a shortlist of 75 names released previously, as broadly representative of the participants over the 100-year period:
1. Tommy Daly (UCD & An Clár/Baile Átha Cliath), 1915-27
A record six-time winner, and winning captain in both 1923 and 1924, Tommy Daly was the first cúlbáire to achieve legendary status in the Fitzgibbon Cup competition and indeed hurling in general. The Tulla native repatriated as a Dublin player during his medical studies, and was the goalkeeper on the Collegians (UCD) selection that won the 1917 All-Ireland hurling title for Dublin – the county’s first since 1889 – under the leadership of his UCD medical colleague John Ryan.
2. Séamus Hickey (UL & Luimneach), 2007-11
In a competition with an ever-expanding array of talents, Hickey has been a most consistent performer of recent Fitzgibbon Cup tournaments and one of the few players to earn selection on the representative 15 in three separate years. He was a corner-back on the University of Limerick’s winning side in 2011, and a midfielder on the team that lost the 2009 final.
3. Niall McInerney (UCG & An Clár/Gaillimh), 1970-77
The Sixmilebridge native was a central figure in breakthrough national triumphs for both college and county in Galway. He was a tenacious, clever defender on the first two all-student UCG sides that won the Fitzgibbon Cup, in 1970 and 1977. Even in a heavy defeat in the 1972 final, he was identified as the outstanding player afield. While at college, he switched county allegiance, and played at full-back on the Galway team that won the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time in 57 years.
4. John Grainger (UCC & Corcaigh), 1983-87
A great reader of the game, blessed with an exceptional first touch, Grainger started and excelled in three different defensive positions for five of UCC ‘s eight consecutive successes in the 1980s. In his last year, he captained the college to victory in 1987. As UCC’s Gaelic games development officer today he continues to promote the college’s tradition.
5. Seán Silke (Maynooth & Gaillimh), 1973-76
Seán Silke was a dynamic defender in Maynooth’s magnificent feat of winning the cup twice (1973 and 1974) in its first three years of entry. Alongside his county colleague Iggy Clarke and Seán Stack (Clare), he also played on Maynooth sides that lost the next two finals. A regular for the Combined Universities, Silke was a half-back on the Galway team that won the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1980.
6. Ted Carroll (UCD & Cill Chainnigh), 1958-62
A winner of two Fitzgibbon Cup medals, in 1959 and 1960, Ted Carroll was one of the first Kilkenny players to achieve national honours at university and inter-county level. He went on to three All-Ireland medals, and was named hurler of the year in 1969. He and his brother Mick were the first set of twins to play together on a Fitzgibbon Cup-winning side, with UCD in 1960.
7. Éamonn Corcoran (WIT & Tiobraid Árann), 1998-2000
Corcoran starred at centre-back on the illustrious Waterford Institute of Technology teams that won successive Fitzgibbon Cup titles in 1999 and 2000. In both years he was named player of the tournament, thus becoming the first man to achieve this feat twice. He also scored a crucial goal in the 2000 final. A year later he played on the Tipperary side that claimed the All-Ireland hurling title.
8. Paul O’Connor (UCC & Corcaigh), 1982-86
Na Piarsaigh clubman O’Connor played at midfield for UCC in five consecutive Fitzgibbon Cup victories, 1982-86, and captained the 1986 side. A steady linkman who was very resourceful in his distribution of the ball, he scored a point from 85 yards out in the 1986 final. Since then, he has coached UCC to four Fitzgibbon Cup successes – the 1996-98 three-in-a-row, and 2009.
9. Jim Hurley (UCC & Corcaigh), 1925-31
Hurley, from Clonakilty, came to college as a mature student, having participated in the War of Independence. During his college years he played on three Fitzgibbon Cup-winning teams and four All-Ireland SHC-winning Cork teams. For many years subsequently he was a mentor for UCC teams, while working as registrar of the college, and three of his sons won Fitzgibbon Cup medals with UCC and UCD. The first-year hurling league trophy, Corn Uí Mhuirthile, was named in his memory.
10. Henry Downey (QUB & Doire), 1986-89
Few players had as dramatic an impact on their club as Henry Downey. After a 23-point collapse at home in the 1985 semi-final, Queen’s hurlers seemed doomed again when trailing UCD by 10 points in Dublin in 1986. A goal by first-year Downey sparked a famous fightback that brought Queen’s to only its second-ever final. His prolific display in 1987 is acclaimed by observers as the best in the competition for many years. An ever-present on the Combined Universities teams of this era.
11. John O’Halloran (UCC & Corcaigh), 1961-69
O’Halloran was the lynchpin of the UCC attack for five Fitzgibbon Cup-winning teams in eight years, and a wing-back on successful Sigerson Cup sides. He was prominent for UCC hurlers’ first-ever county championship success in 1963, and thus was named as county captain a year later. He played at centre-forward on the Cork side that reclaimed the All-Ireland hurling championship in 1966.
12. Pat Henchy (UCC/UCD & An Clár), 1957-64
The Ruan native first won a Fitzgibbon Cup medal with UCC in 1958. The next year he transferred to UCD and won for a second time, and in the 1960 final his two goals earned him a third medal and the accolade of top scorer. But his display in the 1964 final set Henchy apart in Fitzgibbon Cup folklore: he scored 4-3 from play for UCD against his former college, UCC, to clinch his fourth medal.
13. Nicholas English (UCC & Tiobraid Árann), 1981-85
In five straight Fitzgibbon Cup successes Nicholas English displayed the prolific scoring, flexibility and leadership qualities that came to greater fame when he won All-Ireland titles with his county years later. He played mostly in the half-forward line for UCC, but even helped out sometimes in defence. He scored 0-10 in the 1982 final, and captained his college to victory in 1985.
14. Joe Canning (LIT & Gaillimh), 2007-
The prodigious talents of Joe Canning set the Fitzgibbon Cup competition alight as soon as he entered Limerick Institute of Technology. In 2007 he was the chief marksman as the college won the cup for the second time, and a year later he scored an unprecedented 1-16 in the final (after extra-time), including four points from sideline cuts. Canning is set to feature once again for LIT in this years competition .
15. Henry Shefflin (WIT & Cill Chainnigh), 1998-2002
Twice a Fitzgibbon Cup medallist (in 1999 and 2000), twice top scorer in the final, and twice a runner-up in the competition, Henry Shefflin stood out not only as a player for Waterford IT but also as a dedicated clubman. Fitzgibbon Cup experiences played a large part in the development of the career of the eight-time All-Ireland medalist and ten-time All-Star.
The Centenary Fitzgibbon Cup Competition begins on Wednesday evening with UCC hosting DCU in the Mardyke at 7pm while there are 3 further fixtures on Thursday with UL playing LIT in UL at 2pm, the pick of the opening weeks ties. For more all Irish Daily Mail Higher Education Championships fixtures and results log on to www.he.gaa.ie.
Photo: Joe Canning, named at full-forward in the Fitzgibbon Cup team of the century, in recent action for LIT.