Champagne IT Carlow, Donnelly's divine wrists as Fitzgibbon final four hots up 5 months ago

Champagne IT Carlow, Donnelly's divine wrists as Fitzgibbon final four hots up

And then there were four.

The Fitzgibbon Cup has been whittled down to its final four and it's almost impossible to pick a winner.

Last year's champs UCC are still standing with a relatively similar pick while the beaten finalists Mary I are back with a new-look bunch. Tim O'Mahony, Andrew Ormond and Diarmuid Ryan are now key men for them, with Jamie Wall working the oracle in Limerick once more.

IT Carlow arguably, possess the most star-studded team left in the competition while DCU have so much strength in depth that their second 15 could give their first fifteen a serious game.

On the sideline for the north Dublin college against Waterford IT for example, were Adrian and Darren Mullen, Fergal Whitely, Fionntan McGibb and Donal Burke - each of them established inter-county senior hurlers - that's very hard to match.

Home advantage will certainly be a big boost for them on Fitzgibbon final weekend starting Sat February 8. Another sure thing is that it will be some weekend of hurling.

Quarter final draw (Feb 8, DCU)

Mary Immaculate v IT Carlow

UCC v DCU

We run the rule over the final four.

Mary I

Jamie Wall's team are heavyweights of the competition at this stage and while last year's key men Aaron Gillane, Luke Meade and Thomas Monaghan have all moved on, the Limerick college have found some able replacements. Tim O'Mahony and Craig Morgan lord it in the half back line while Diarmuid Ryan is a powerhouse in midfield. Tipperary's Andrew Ormond has that X factor up top while Gary Cooney is becoming a potent goalscorer for his team.

One thing you can always count on Mary I for is a serious spirit too, and that's impossible to overstate in Fitzgibbon hurling.

According to the bookies, they're outsiders but Mary I are always a force to be reckoned with.

IT Carlow

Goals win games and IT Carlow have the killer instinct. With DJ Carey training them, their familiarity with the green flag is hardly surprising and it's what's brought them this far. They beat NUIG by 5-21 to 0-28 after extra-time in a thrilling quarter final tie in Carlow on Thursday night and people are starting to take notice of them now.

As well as having the experience and know-how of DJ Carey and Mick Dempsey on the line, IT Carlow have a serious panel of hurlers with five Kilkenny seniors, three Wexford seniors, three Laois seinors and a Carlow senior in their midst. Tommy Nolan, a former All-Ireland minor winner with Tipperary for example, struggles to get his game there indicating the depth they have.

Down at number 28 on that panel is Jerry Kelly, fresh from a rip-roaring club season with Borris-Ileigh and he hit the ground running for his college in the quarter finals, with an early goal against Galway.

Some of their scores in the game were incredible, none more so than Liam Blanchfield's batted finish after a gorgeous flick from Seamus Casey. That's a forward line who are on song.

Credit to Jerome Quinn and HE GAA for the video clips. IT Carlow will have a say yet.

UCC

Stars of 2019, Coleman, Fitzgibbon, Kingston, Conway and Kehoe are still in 'The College' while Robbie O'Flynn, Robert Downey, Niall O'Leary and Killian O'Dwyer are all talented young hurlers. Tom Kingston's side are 11/8 favourites for a reason.

UCC starting team v UCD in quarter final.

S Hurley; D Lowney, R Downey, K O’Dwyer; B Hennessey, N O’Leary, D Griffin; M Coleman, D Fitzgibbon; R O’Flynn, S Conway, C Boylan; P O’Loughlin, S Kingston, M Kehoe.

DCU

DCU have been hammering the Fitzgibbon door down for the last few years now and they were desperately unlucky in the semi-final v UCC last year.

Their team-play and selflessness was second to none against Waterford IT on Thursday night though John Donnelly stood out like a sore thumb. The Thomastown club man is one of the most gifted hurlers in Ireland and he gave an exhibition under the lights in St Clare's. His wrists, touch, passing and vision is on a different level to those who share the field with him and on song, he's one of the best forwards in the land.

Kildare man James Burke is also a serious weapon for Eoin Roche's team with all his aerial power and finishing ability.

It's going to be some Fitzgibbon Cup weekend.