There’s an unmistakably local feel to Wednesday night’s Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup quarter final between SETU Carlow and SETU Waterford.
Less than an hour separates the two colleges in the south-east so there will be great excitement from the minute the Carlow players point their cars in the direction of Waterford for this knock-out clash.
Elsewhere, Mary I take on TUS Midwest in the early quarter final at 2.00. MTU Cork travel to Dangan to take on the University of Galway at 7.00 while the tie of the round is arguably the clash of UL and UCC in UL at 8.00, which will be streamed live on the Higher Education GAA Youtube.
Players like Adam English, Mark Rodgers and Colin Coughlan will be in action for UL with the likes of Shane Barrett, Brian Hayes and Ben Cunningham in the UCC ranks.
Our focus, however is on the ‘local derby’ that takes place in the SETU Arena in Waterford.
Cheddar Plunkett is the SETU Carlow manager, and he’s certainly looking forward to the game.
Having managed the Laois senior hurling team in separate stints, as well as a number of clubs such as James Stephens of Kilkenny, this is Plunkett’s first time to manage a Fitzgibbon Cup team.
As with all college’s managers, Plunkett acknowledges the difficulty involved in preparing college teams as a legacy of the early focus of the current inter-county season. Therefore, training sessions and group meet-ups are minimal.
“It’s my first time as a Fitzgibbon manager so learning a lot about it,” the Portlaoise man tells SportsJOE.
“The change in the county schedules has changed things for Fitzgibbon hurling.
“The re-focus in performance towards the early months of the year has completely changed the Fitzgibbon dynamic,” he says.
Plunkett has enjoyed his experience as SETU Carlow manager to date and says that the Fitzgibbon Cup should be protected and preserved in the GAA landscape.
“I’m only the amateur here learning along the way, but I do think there needs to be a discussion here just to provide that it survives here in its current guise, that there is room for it in the calendar.
“Look it, I was the other side of the fence as well (as a county manager) and I know the pressure that’s on county managers to hit the ground running.
“There needs to be a forum of some description just to see where this is going to go and how it’s going to go.
“As a final comment on it, I would say that with the demise of the provincials, Fitzgibbon gives inter-county players the chance to mingle with other inter-county players and they really like that so it certainly shouldn’t be something that should be cast aside.”
“I suggest we stand back from it, look at it, from Fitz managers, county managers, club managers, and get it right. That broad discussion needs to happen.”
As for tonight’s derby, Plunkett reckons there will be a great atmosphere in the SETU arena in Carriganore, as he looks forward to his Fitzgibbon Cup quarter final as manager.
“It’s been a great experience so far, and really I’m looking forward to the game,” he says.
“It’s a local derby so it will be good. Geographically, they’re not that terribly far from each other.
“They’re similar type colleges, with students coming from the same places. There would be synergy between the colleges and that spills over into the sporting environment too.
“To get into a Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final is worth fighting for as well. So there is a great buzz about it.”
SETU Carlow line-up in last game:
J Lawlor; D Palmer, M Dundon, P Casey; K Moynihan, C Corcoran, R Mullaney; G Lynch, J Nolan; A Dunphy, C Nolan, J Fogarty; T Keyes, E Cody, P Boland.
SETU Waterford line-up in last game:
B Hennessy; C King, P Wicham, J Harkin; R Hanley, T Barron, G Cullinane; W Beresford, B Power; R Halloran, S Walsh, G Fives; Pádraig Fitzgerald, Patrick Fitzgerald, J Foley.
UL line-up in last game:
C Hanley Clarke; F O’Connor, D Lohan, J Conneally; R Hayes, M Fitzgerald, C Coughlan; B O’Grady, Brian O’Sullivan; D Hanniffy, G O’Connor, S O’Hanlon; A English, M Rodgers, A O’Connor.
UCC line-up in last game:
B Saunderson; C McCarthy, S Kingston, G Mellerick, J Fitzpatrick, I Daly, C O’Brien, D Flynn, D Stakelum, B Keating, W Buckley, B Hayes, S Barrett, D Hogan, B Cunningham.
Fitzgibbon Cup quarter finals:
Wednesday February 7:
MICL v TUS Mid West, MICL, 2pm
SETU Waterford v SETU Carlow, SETU Waterford Arena, 6.30pm
University of Galway v MTU Cork, Dangan, 7pm
UL v UCC, UL, 8pm (Streamed on Higher Education GAA Youtube)
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