True beauty of Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups lies in the hearts of weaker counties 1 month ago

True beauty of Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups lies in the hearts of weaker counties

St Clare's was thronged for the football, not quite as busy for the hurling.

Streams of students made the ten minute walk from DCU down to the GAA grounds where, on both nights, the breeze was so sharp that it would have cut you in two.


There were as many girls as boys among them, the hordes united by wooly hats, puffy jackets and an interest in the game, or, maybe, for some, an interest in the players.

The Cross country runners did laps of the outside field and, every time they passed us by, as well as being supported by the same fence, we were all thinking the same thing. Rather them than me.

DCU were hosting MTU Cork in the Sigerson quarter final and the first thing you do, before anything else, is whip out the phone to find a programme.

The DCU team, it soon became apparent, was an eclectic mix of Dublin, Cork, Cavan, Longford, Wexford, Meath, Offaly, Kildare, Roscommon, Monaghan, Sligo, Louth and, last but not least, Donegal.


Conor Corbett in action for DCU against MTU in the Sigerson Cup.

The MTU team, well, that was a little bit easier to track. That's because, down in Cork, when it comes to outsiders at least, Kerry is as far as they'll stretch.

That's not a generalisation, or in any way applicable to everyday life, it's just to say that the MTU panel was made up entirely of players from both Cork and Kerry.


That is very much all.

Meath duo Shane Walsh and Matthew Costello were two of the stars of the weekend, and they were side-by-side again, this time in the DCU forward line.

Walsh is the DCU captain, he shot the lights out down in Cork, but, perhaps understandably, he was a little more subdued here.

After all, there were just 48 hours between this and his Páirc Uí Chaoimh masterclass.


That quick turnaround actually and visibly caught up on Costello, the big full forward from Meath, and he couldn't hide his disappointment when a hamstring injury forced him off early in the second half.

There has also been a lot of talk about Conor Corbett, Cork's All-Ireland minor winning captain in 2019, and many are calling him the next big thing for the seniors.

But MTU had Sean Meehan at number three and the Cork full back didn't make it easy for his county team-mate and college rival.

Corbett did eventually find a yard in the second half, and showed a glimpse of his class when playing in Offaly's Jack Bryant in for the game-changing goal.

The other big names were Jack Cahalane - who has better genes that the horses in Ballydoyle - and though he didn't score, his speed on the ball and off it was a sight to behold.


Dublin's Lorcan O'Dell also stood out a mile when he came on as a second half sub.

But Cahalane was not the best player on show. O'Dell wasn't the best player on show and neither was Walsh. Paudie Hughes mightn't be as well known as those lads but anyone who was there in Glasnevin was asking to find out who he was.

With his tigerish tackling and composure in possession, the Wexford man ran this game and looking on from the sideline, his manager Paddy Christie was clearly impressed.

Just behind Hughes, the speedy PJ Masterson was almost as influential and if it wasn't for a brilliant save from Kieran Twomey, the Longford man would have scored one of the goals of the competition.

On the same night, Leitrim's Paul Keaney kicked 0-7 and played a pivotal role in UL's win over reigning champions NUIG. Clare duo Emmett McMahon and Ciaran Downes sealed the deal for the Limerick college, scoring the only points in the second half of extra-time.

Back to north Dublin,

The Sigerson was so entertaining that you came back the following day for the Fitzgibbon and that's when you'd have seen Laois' Thomas Keyes light it up for SETU Carlow. Podge Delaney was as impressive as ever behind him and against them, Kildare's Simon Lacey had a big game for DCU.

1 February 2023; A general view of college buildings during the HE GAA Sigerson Cup Quarter-Final match between TU Dublin and University College Dublin at TU Dublin Grangegorman in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It was quite ironic when Conor Kehoe, a Carlow man, scored the winning goal against a Carlow college but what it means is that DCU are now as good as through to the quarter finals in that competition.

And what it shows is the true beauty of the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups. That players from Longford and Carlow and Leitrim are not just in with a chance of winning a first grade All-Ireland, but that they're actually dragging their colleges towards it...