UL not just a strong team on paper
By John Harrington
The UL team that will contest Saturday’s Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup Final against DCU is absolutely stacked with inter-county talent.
They boast some of the country’s most in-form players in the shape of men like Tipperary duo Jason Forde and John McGrath, Clare trio Tony Kelly, Conor Cleary, and David Fitzgerald, and Limerick trio Tom Morrissey, Barry Murphy, and Gearoid Hegarty.
And, according to team full-back Conor Cleary, they’re more than just a strong team on paper.
It’s Cleary’s first year in the College having previously hurled for NUIG in the Fitzgibbon Cup, and what has struck him most about this group is the shared will to win.
“I suppose, one thing I've noticed, and it's my first year there, is that there is a lot of motivated characters in the dressing-room,” he told GAA.ie.
“You can have big names all you want, but everyone has to decide they really want to win.
“That's the big thing, aside from the big names, it's just that lot of the lads are very motivated characters.
“It's not just one or two lads driving it on, it's really a collective thing.
“I didn't really know many of the lads outside of the Clare lads when I came into the UL dressing-room, but just to see the amount of leaders that are there and the real will to win that there is there with the other inter-county lads and that kind of drives everyone on.
“There's not just one or two lads doing it, everyone inside there really wants to drive it on and win. When you go into that environment you'd be enthused by it straight away and you want to do your best for the team when you come into that environment.”
Even in a team with so many high-profile inter-county stars, Tipperary’s Jason Forde has managed to stand out during UL’s run to Saturday’s Final.
He’s scored 4-6 in his last two Fitzgibbon Cup games, and Cleary knows from marking him in training just how confident he is right now.
“I suppose in fairness to him if he gets a sniff of it he'll put it away,” said Cleary.
“It's great to be up against him in training because he's a real top inter-county forward. If you can deal with him you can deal with a lot of lads.
“I even saw the Wexford game last Saturday and he can nearly make the ball talk. Some things can do are unbelievable, and the two goals he got were real killer instinct.
“He's flying it, hopefully he can bring that into Saturday's game as well.”
UL are warm favourites to beat a DCU team playing in their first ever Fitzgibbon Cup Final, but Cleary insists the won’t be taking the challenge lightly.
“I was at their game against LIT and I was very impressed,” he said. “They dominated that game for long periods.
“I suppose they have a lot of lads with serious inter-county experience and have played very well at a high level like Paudie (Foley) with Wexford and Eoghan O'Donnell and Donal Burke with Dublin and John Donnelly with Kilkenny.
“They're going to be a big, physical team. I suppose no more so than the Carlow game the last day, we're expecting a physical clash.”