UCC preparing for another Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup decider
Wednesday February 12
Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup Final
UCC v IT Carlow, DCU Sportsgrounds, 7.30pm
It has been another Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup sprinkled with drama, but UCC, the most prolific winners of the competition, are delighted to reach another decider.
Ultimately, Saturday’s compelling semi-final win over DCU was decided by a delicious Mark Coleman sideline cut as the holders survived a most awkward assignment.
“Unbelievable, it was a fantastic way to win a game, not a very good way to lose a game unfortunately,” UCC selector Ray Delaney admits ahead of Wednesday’s final against IT Carlow. “It is absolutely fantastic to be there again.
“When we went up on Saturday you look at the programme and the four semi-finalists with players from all over the place.
“The other colleges had fantastic groups of players. We are lucky we have a good group and we are lucky that at the moment things are going brilliantly.”
So Delaney accepts that the standard of the 2020 Fitzgibbon has been particularly high. “It is phenomenal,” Delaney replies.
“Each team you look at doesn't just have one or two very good players like there normally would be in an opposition. This year you are worried about six, seven or eight players in the opposition. The quality, the standard, everything about it is unreal.”
That is why Delaney derives such pride and pleasure from being involved in Tom Kingston’s backroom team for the Fitzgibbon Cup.
“It is fantastic,” Delaney says. “First and foremost for anyone who is involved in GAA we are all hurling supporters or football supporters whichever your game is.
“For us as supporters to be in a dressing room with the standard of player that we are with is fantastic. It is brilliant just to see how they operate, how they prepare.”
Throughout the decades UCC Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup outfits have been assisted by selectors and coaches with an in depth knowledge of the Cork scene.
UCC’s Head of Gaelic Games Development, John Grainger, has kept UCC relevant in both codes. “Yeah, it is a fairly short span for the season,” Delaney states.
“For people involved with clubs it is probably easier to give their time for two or three months, whatever it is. We are probably all in fear of John Grainger too. When he tells us to do something, we don't ask, we just say okay sir.”
That sense of joy means a deep respect exists in UCC and Delaney acknowledges that the players and management learn so much throughout the campaign.
“Without a doubt, it is treated brilliantly,” Delaney remarks. “It is a fantastic competition to be involved in on the pitch and off the pitch.
“You have bunches of players from different counties getting to know each other, making friendships for life.
“It is the same off the pitch, as well as the players the management do too. It is so intense for that short span of time.
“You nearly live in each others pockets, you are in touch every day of the week for two or three months. Very intense, but very enjoyable.”
What strikes Delaney most of all is the expressive manner in which most of the teams attempt to operate.
“Absolutely, you certainly don't have any time to be setting up styles or plays, ways to play,” Delaney comments.
“For me an awful lot of Fitzgibbon is played off the cuff, which is better hurling, at times, for supporters certainly.
"You don't have time to work with players, who are with their counties and some are with their clubs late into the year. It is a case of going out to play.
“There is no such things as defensive systems or 17 players behind the ball or anything silly like that. It is a case of 'lads we are going out, we are playing a game of hurling, we score 20 points, if we score more than the opposition we will win the game and fellas are free to express themselves, to showcase their skill levels and talent.”
The approach has served UCC well in recent years. Wednesday’s encounter against IT Carlow promises to be the next intriguing test.