Niland fires 0-14 and Bennett scores two goals as NUIG hold off WIT for Fitzgibbon Cup win

NUI Galway 1-22
Waterford IT 2-13

NUI GALWAY SET up a local Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final clash next week against GMIT thanks to a six-point win over Waterford IT at Dangan tonight, with Evan Niland continuing his immaculate run of form for both Galway and the university by scoring 0-14 over the course of the hour.

There was a style and polish to the home side this evening, and who twice looked like they had comfortably shaken off the threat posed by Waterford IT, only for penalty goals from Shane Bennett to drag Fintan O’Connor’s side right back into the contest on two occasions.

Ultimately however, the Waterford students simply didn’t pose the same scoring threat from open play, though they will wonder how different things might have been if Eoin O’Shea hadn’t missed the target with four scoreable dead ball opportunities.

On a dry and still evening that was as suited to hurling as any February night could hope to be, goalkeeper Billy Nolan opened the scoring for WIT with a long range free, but the home side quickly found their groove and four points on the spin from Niland, three frees and a quick strike from the left wing after he collected a sideline cut, set the tone for the game.

Ciarán Kirwan replied for WIT but a well-finished solo goal from Fionn MacDonagh pushed the gap out to five points with just seven minutes gone. Waterford IT were competitive from general play, but they struggled to get good possession close to the NUIG goal and were dependent on frees to stay in touch. Well-taken scores from Cáimín Killeen and Cian Lynch helped to extend NUIG’s lead before WIT were handed a lifeline before half-time in the shape of a penalty, awarded for a hold on Tom Barron and crashed to the net by Bennett.

WIT kept their momentum going after half-time and reduced the gap to three points briefly, 1-11 to 1-8, before NUIG hit another purple patch, outscoring the visitors by 0-6 to 0-1 in the next ten minutes.

Consecutive points from Bennett and Pádraig Fitzgerald were followed by another penalty award with five minutes to play, so when Bennett found the top right corner yet again, suddenly Waterford IT were just one goal away from tying up the game.

NUIG’s response to the setback was exemplary however. They won the next puckout and set up an attack that yielded another Niland free, and late points from Mark Kennedy and the Clarinbridge marksman, one from a free and one from play, gave them enough cushion to safely negotiate five minutes of added time.

Scorers for NUI Galway: Evan Niland 0-14 (0-12f), Cian Lynch 0-3, Fionn MacDonagh 1-0, Caimin Killeen 0-2, Mark Gill 0-1, John Fleming 0-1, Mark Kennedy 0-1.

Scorers for Waterford IT: Shane Bennett 2-2 (2-0 pens), Eoin O’Shea 0-7 (0-6f, 0-1 65), Billy Nolan 0-2f, Ciaran Kirwan 0-1, Pádraig Fitzgerald 0-1.

NUI Galway

(Galway unless stated):

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Liam Reilly (Castlegar);

Eoin Lawless (Athenry), Jack Fitzpatrick (Killimordaly), Conor Caulfield (Kilconieron);

Cáimín Killeen (Loughrea), Darren Morrissey (Sarsfields), Mark Gill (Castlegar);

Diarmuid Kilcommins (Annaghdown), Ian McGlynn (Kilconieron);

Conor Walsh (Turloughmore), Cian Lynch (Patrickswell, Limerick), Fionn MacDonagh (Moycullen);

Philip Hickey (Nenagh Éire Óg, Tipperary), John Fleming (Meelick-Eyrecourt), Evan Niland (Clarinbridge).

Subs

Cian Salmon (Clarinbridge) for MacDonagh (temp, 30-30+2)

Mark Kennedy (Clarinbridge) for McGlynn (50)

Oisín Flannery (St. Thomas’) for MacDonagh (52)

Niall Collins (Cappataggle) for Hickey (60).

Waterford IT

(Waterford unless stated):

Billy Nolan (Roanmore);

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Conor Ryan (Roanmore), Dara Walsh (Piltown, Kilkenny), William Halpin (Slieverue, Kilkenny);

Ross Smithers (Naomh Eoin, Carlow), Tom Barron (Fourmilewater), Martin De Paor (Clonea);

Neil O’Sullivan (Ferrybank), Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart);

Alan Kirwan (Mount Sion), Eoin O’Shea (O’Loughlin Gaels, Kilkenny), Jack Lyons (Ballyduff Lower);

Owen Reilly (Passage), Ciarán Kirwan (Clonea), Pádraig Fitzgerald (Kilrossanty).

Subs:

Paddy Boland (St. Mullins, Carlow) for Reilly (43)

Paul Hennebry (Mooncoin, Kilkenny) for Murphy (56)

Ryan Tierney (Ferrybank) for Kirwan (58).

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