UL favourites for College Game Day

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Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 10.28.32DESPITE the best efforts of solicitors and barristers everywhere, the finals of the Fitzgibbon Cup will take place this weekend in Limerick as originally planned, with most of the local interest likely to be centred on the semi-final derby between UL and LIT, throwing in at 2.45pm Friday at Moylish. There is a tendency in rivalry games like this to delve into clichés about formbooks being thrown out the window (who throws books, anyway?) but when it comes to college matches, quality usually comes to the fore. What we’ve seen from UL this year is some of the best quality hurling that has been produced for several seasons at this level.
Every college team at this stage of the competition tends to be packed with capable, strong hurlers, while it would be a rare team in the last four of the Fitzgibbon Cup that didn’t have at least nine or ten county starters. However when LIT were successful back in the middle of the last decade they had a few really special players, not least Galway’s Joe Canning. This year it’s UL who have that type of elite talent in the form of Tony Kelly at midfield, while a few of Jason Forde’s performances have suggested that he may yet be elevated into that same category by his peers.
Since this column had to be filed on Tuesday, definitive match odds weren’t available, however Paddy Powers did indicate to Limerick Post that a line of around 4/11 UL was likely. When we factor in how IT Carlow pushed David Fitzgerald’s side to the pin of their collar, and how a late penalty could have changed matters completely, then even money or better around UL minus three has to be the bet.
It’s also expected that Waterford IT will be between 4/5 and even money for their meeting with Cork IT and on that basis, doubling up UL on the handicap with the reigning champions from the South East might be a solid play. WIT may have lost a lot of their big hitters from last year, but Pauric Mahony is in ridiculously good form for them, while Austin Gleeson was a pretty sensational new recruit from the ranks of the 2014 freshers’ team. Cork IT are very solid but they don’t have quite the same level of individual brilliance and that might make the difference in the earlier fixture.
This is also a big weekend for the Limerick footballers with Armagh set to come to Kilmallock for the third round of the Allianz League. But while we’d love to show a bit of faith in John Brudair’s men, the manner of their defeat to Tipp, combined with the sheer strength that there is in the Armagh team, would suggest that Powers’ five point spread might not be enough to justify a patriotic punt on this one.