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

DCU, UCC, Mary Immaculate and NUI Galway are all in action.

Gillane, Coleman, Loftus and O'Donnell will all likely be figures this week.
Gillane, Coleman, Loftus and O'Donnell will all likely be figures this week.
Image: INPHO

THE RACE FOR the 2019 Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup crown has been whittled down to four teams with DCU, UCC, NUI Galway and Mary Immaculate all in semi-final action this week. 

Last year’s finalists DCU take on 2013 champions UCC in the opening last four tie tomorrow in Waterford IT at 5pm before Thursday afternoon brings together the 2016 and 2017 winners Mary Immaculate and the 2010 champions NUI Galway.

Here’s eight key players that could shape the outcome of these matches: 

1. Mark Coleman (UCC – Cork)

A standout figure in the UCC ranks, Coleman has largely been operating at midfield in this campaign. The 2017 All-Star has been a shining light in the half-back line for Cork over the past couple of seasons with his input likely to be key as UCC bid to reach the final for the first time since 2013.

2. Eoghan O’Donnell (DCU – Dublin)

Filled the number three position last season when DCU reached the decider for the first time, O’Donnell has plenty hurling experience behind him. The Dublin senior will be the defensive anchor for a team that has yet to conceded a goal in their three matches to date this season.

3. Shane Conway (UCC – Kerry)

Six different counties supplied players to the UCC starting attack for last week’s quarter-final victory but it is a forward from a lower-tier county who has caught the eye. Kerry’s Shane Conway has amassed 0-26 (0-18 frees) from four games with his trickery and accuracy causing damage for several rearguards. Hit 1-5 last year for UCC in their Cork senior semi-final loss to eventual champions Imokilly and 0-13 as his club Lixnaw won the Kerry senior decider.

4. Rory O’Connor (DCU – Wexford)

It may seem curious to signal out a player who came off the bench in DCU’s quarter-final win but O’Connor’s hurling talent is plain to see. Won an All-Ireland Freshers medal in 2018 with DCU and has already made his mark with superb showings for the Wexford side. Has had his share of injury problems but came off the bench to hit two important points as Davy Fitzgerald’s side defeated Cork eight days ago.

Rory O'Connor and Mark Coleman Rory O'Connor in action for Wexford against Cork's Mark Coleman recently. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

5. Aaron Gillane (Mary Immaculate - Limerick)

Hit 1-5 when Mary Immaculate won the final of this competition two years ago and since then the Patrickswell man has gone from strength to strength. Really influential as Limerick swept to Liam MacCarthy Cup glory last summer and has recorded 1-14 to date in two league games this spring.

6. Sean Loftus (NUIG – Galway)

The NUI Galway team is loaded with Tribesmen players and Loftus is one of the more experienced. Captained Galway to an All-Ireland minor final win in 2015, picked up a provincial U21 medal last July and saw gametime in the All-Ireland senior final against Limerick.

7. Colin Guilfoyle (Mary Immaculate - Clare)

It’s been a good start to 2019 for Guilfoyle, operating as the focal point of the Clare senior attack as he has impressed in pre-season in Munster and in the opening encounters in the league. Struck 1-3 for Mary Immaculate in the group stage win over Maynooth and will be keen to make an impact in Cusack Park.

Colin Guilfoyle Clare attacker Colin Guilfoyle Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

8. Evan Niland (NUIG – Galway)

Conor Whelan is the standout name in the NUI Galway forward line after his senior exploits for the county but joint captain Niland is an important figure. He showcased his free-taking ability when scoring 0-9 back in 2015 as the Galway minor side claimed All-Ireland honours and struck the same total in NUIG’s Fitzgibbon Cup quarter final success against LIT last week.

Evan Niland Galway hurler Evan Niland. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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