'He is the Messi of hurling' - UCC boss hails Kerry star after heroic nine-point haul

Shane Conway was superb for the Fitzgibbon Cup champions.

UCC star Shane Conway.
UCC star Shane Conway.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

UCC BOSS TOM Kingston has dubbed Kerry star Shane Conway as “the Messi of hurling” after his nine-point tally helped the Cork university to retain their Fitzgibbon Cup crown.

The Lixnaw forward produced a man-of-the-match display in a thrilling final against a courageous IT Carlow outfit who were chasing their first title in the top tier of third-level hurling.

UCC trailed for most of the game, and were even six points adrift of the challengers, after conceding two early goals in the first seven minutes of the first half.

But the holders rallied to victory, with Conway hitting four crucial points in the final stages to help squeeze over the line.

“He’s just different level,” Kingston said when asked about Conway’s performance before going on to compare him to Barcelona great Lionel Messi.

“His hurling brain is just so far ahead of most guys, his skill, his free-taking kept us in the match. He did it all over the pitch, he’s outstanding.

I think any team in the country would love to have him, he’d make any team in the country but he’s loyal to his club, he’s loyal to his county and I’d have huge admiration for him. I slag him there sometimes, I call him the Messi of hurling, and I don’t think I’m too far wrong, he is the Messi of hurling.

UCC were severely tested in their title defence this year, as their semi-final and final outings both turned out to be nervous one-point affairs.

They needed a superb Mark Coleman sideline to deliver a win against DCU in the semi-final, while points from Conway and Cork’s Darragh Fitzgibbon were just about enough to secure the win in tonight’s decider.

david-griffin-and-shane-kingston-celebrate-with-their-team Some of the UCC contingent celebrate at the final whistle. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Carlow even had the chance to force extra-time when they were awarded a sideline at the death, but Jerry Kelly’s effort failed to split the posts.

“I was nervous, it was the same spot as Mark’s [sideline] but it was our day,” said Kingston.

“I’m absolutely elated. The boys never gave up, they kept at it and they just dug it out. I can’t put words on the belief they have in each other and the will to win, they want to win. They wanted to win it, they were going to give it everything to win it. We told them if they give it everything, they’ll win the game.”

Remarking on the stress of watching his side play two tough games in the space of just four days, Kingston continued:

“I must get my heart checked over it. These lads know how to calm themselves down. Leave them relax, leave them to themselves after Saturday, then we just had a rest day and Monday evening we had a few pucks, get back there, we have a final Wednesday.

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“We knew we were up against a really good Carlow side, and they proved that, they showed some passion and heart today as well. My heart does go out to them because they had the game in their grasp, only we saved it.”

UCC were forced to finish the final with 14 players after Niall O’Leary received a red card.

But Kingston says he had no worries about the numerical disadvantage, and was confident that his charges would hold firm in honour of their team-mate.

“Niall’s an outstanding player, a great player and he’s a Cork senior hurler. For some reason it just came into my head that the lads were just going to go on and win this game for him, he’s a really popular guy in the group. And I just felt the players would pull it out for him, that was an incredible victory out there.” 

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