On The Lookout

8 players to watch out for in this week's Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals

The semi-finals are down for decision tomorrow.

AND THEN THERE were four.

It’s Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals week as back-to-back champions UL, last year’s finalists University of Galway contest for a place in Saturday’s decider, along with Mary I and SETU Waterford.

This is familiar territory for the Galway and UL outfits, while SETU Waterford also reached the final four of last year’s competition. Mary I failed to emerge from the group stages in 2023.

Before the action commences, let’s take a closer look at some of the players who we think will have a major say in the pairing for the final.

1. Patrick Fitzgerald – SETU Waterford 

Hitting 1-4 against SETU Carlow, Ballygunner’s Fitzgerald is one of SETU Waterford’s most lethal weapons heading into the penultimate stage of the Fitzgibbon Cup. Fitzgerald is a scoring talent who has been on the rise in recent seasons. His clubmate Philip Mahony identified him as a “special talent” after he scored 1-4 against Ballyea in the 2022 Munster club final at just 18 years of age.

He hit two points as Ballygunner completed a Munster three-in-a-row last December, one of which was an impressive effort under pressure from a tricky angle. Fitzgerald was named on the 2021 Minor Hurling Team of the Year and has also hurled at senior level for the Déise.

2. Shane Meehan – Mary I 

shane-meehan-scores-his-sides-opening-goal Shane Meehan in action for Mary I. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Clare dual star Meehan was among the standouts for Jamie Wall’s Mary I in their eight-point win over TUS Midwest last Wednesday. He registered 1-2 from play, including a brilliant goal which struck the back stanchion.

His proficiency across both hurling and football was evident in 2019 when he was named Munster minor footballer of the year and was also included on the minor hurling team of the Year.

Interestingly, he made his senior county championship debut in 2022 before his first involvement at adult level with the Banner club who were crowned Clare junior champions last year. A groin injury derailed his season last year, but his comeback year is already off to a flyer based on his Mary I form.

3. Tiernan Killeen – University of Galway

An emerging talent for the Galway seniors, Killeen has made a big contribution to University of Galway’s path back to the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-finals.

He posted four points from play in their quarter-final victory last week despite lining out at wing half-back. The Loughrea star played for the Galway U20s last year and is among the breakthrough players expected to earn more game time under Henry Shefflin this year.

4. Gearóid O’Connor – UL

O’Connor grabbed the headlines at the weekend with his tally of 1-13 for Tipperary in their league win over Galway. His goal came from a late penalty which he needed to convert as the Tribesmen had mustered a rally which brought them from nine points down to within two of the Premier men.

O’Connor is also a solid free-taker, tapping over eight points and one ’65 in that win over Galway. He’s also been central to UL’s Fitzgibbon Cup defence so far, clocking up eight points against UCC to book their place in the semi-finals.

The Moyne-Templetuohy player made his introduction to senior hurling for Tipperary last year with 1-3 against Cork in the Munster championship. His stock looks set to rise again in 2024, as he targets a Fitzgibbon Cup three-in-a-row with UL.

reuben-halloran Reuben Halloran during the 2023 Fitzgibbon Cup. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

5. Reuben Halloran – SETU Waterford

Halloran’s free-taking accuracy has been key to SETU Waterford’s progress through the Fitzgibbon Cup. Seven points from placed balls against MTU Cork, followed by another five in the quarter-final victory over Carlow has booked the Waterford outfit a place in the semi-finals.

He scored an injury-time point against Tipperary to send Waterford through to the Munster Hurling league final last month, although the competition was never finished as the semi-final between Cork and Limerick could not be played due to weather.

Halloran was instrumental for SETU Waterford in last year’s Fitzgibbon Cup which ended at the semi-final stage, and will be hoping to steer his side into a decider this time around.

6. Adam English – UL 

Along with Mark Rodgers and Gearóid O’Connor, English played a prominent role in last week’s win over UCC. Four points from play was the Limerick forward’s contribution to the result.

English was part of the Limerick U20 team who won a Munster title in 2022 and reached the All-Ireland final where they lost out to Kilkenny. He was also part of the senior squad who completed an All-Ireland four-in-a-row and top-scored with 0-10 against Antrim in the league this year.

diarmuid-ryan Diarmuid Ryan during last year's All-Ireland semi-final. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

7. Diarmuid Ryan – Mary I 

Clare defender Ryan is making his mark for Mary Immaculate College as they prepare for a first Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final since 2020. He lined out at wing back in their victory over TUS Midwest last week, and orchestrated his side’s only goal of the game when he sent in a long delivery to Shane Meehan who applied the finish.

The Cratloe star is an important part of the Clare defence, scoring a point in their narrow defeat to Kilkenny in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

8. Niall Collins – University of Galway 

Collins was joint top-scorer for University of Galway in last week’s win over MTU Cork, helping himself to 1-5, with four of his points coming from frees. He also provided the assist for a goal by Colm Molloy who also finished the game with a tally of 1-5.

The Cappatagle forward is currently the top scorer in the Fitzgibbon Cup, with 1-25 already banked ahead of the semi-finals.

Collins scored three points in last year’s Fitzgibbon Cup final defeat to UL, and will be aiming for revenge when the sides collide in the semi-final tomorrow.

Fitzgibbon Cup Semi-Final Fixtures: Wednesday, 14 February

Mary I v SETU Waterford – Mallow, 5.15pm

University of Galway v UL - St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield, 6.30pm

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