NUI Galway begin Fitzgibbon campaign with win

St Pat’s failed to grasp a massive opportunity presented to them on 24 January in Dangan as they went down to understrength NUI Galway that began with only 5 starters from last year’s knockout tie against UL.

Clare’s Conor Cleary starred at centre back for NUIG.

Clare’s Conor Cleary starred at centre back for NUIG.

William Ryan and Sean Morrissey proved to be major thorns in Galway’s side from the outset by thwarting NUI Galway’s short puck out strategy and taking full advantage of the wind by sailing over long range points that made it 0-7 0 to 0-4 to the visitors after 20 minutes. NUI Galway then introduced Galway Senior Conor Whelan who replied with 2 points, while placed balls from Ger Hennelly brought the deficit to 1 at the break, making it 0-9 to 0-8 to St Pat’s.

The visitors’ dominance would come crashing down in time as NUI Galway abandoned the sweeper system to play 15 on 15 for the second half while the wind began to benefit the home side. Five minutes in, a long range shot from Conor Cleary deceived the St Pat’s goalkeeper to drop all the way into the net while Kevin McHugo crashed in another 5 minutes later, leaving the score 2-11 to 11 points after 42 minutes. The visitors weren’t buried yet though as Jake Firman kicked a goal past Tuohy to leave 4 between the sides with 10 minutes remaining but two further goals from Fitzgibbon debutant Sam Conlon ensured a home win by leaving the score line 4-14 to 1-14 at the finish.

NUI Galway manager Tony Ward, spoke to SIN after the game; “We’re happy to get off to a win, although it was a poor first half display we turned it around in the second half.

“There will be a bigger test next week.”

NUI Galway travel to Limerick next week and face a stiff task against U.L who have Tony Kelly, John McGrath and former NUI Galway hurler Bobby Duggan in their ranks. For St Pat’s, they’re likely to look back on this game with much regret having lost the opportunity of beating an NUI Galway team without the Mannion brothers or a fully fit Conor Whelan, who are expected to be back in time for next week’s clash.

NUIG: C. Tuohy, C. Cosgrove, B. Fitzpatrick, C. Ryan, M. Conneely, C. Cleary, G. Forde, I. Fox, O. Donnellan, N. Mitchell, K. McHugo, G. Hennelly, G. Loughnane, S. Conlon, A. Helebert.

St Pat’s: P. Simms, R. Tubridy, C. Shaw, S. Barden, G. Malone, B. McDowell, C. Brady, N. Mullins, A. Cox, P. Spellacy, W. Ryan, S. Morrissey, J. Firman, M. Storey, C. Breathnach.

-By Michael Burke

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