'I twisted my ankle so from high to low in a second' - Cork star missed last few minutes of UCC triumph

Darragh Fitzgibbon finished with two crucial points to help secure back-to-back Fitzgibbon Cup titles.

Darragh Fitzgibbon in action for UCC last night.
Darragh Fitzgibbon in action for UCC last night.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CORK STAR MIDFIELDER Darragh Fitzgibbon was forced to miss the last few minutes of UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup triumph after suffering a twisted ankle.

Fitzgibbon hit two crucial points to help Tom Kingston’s side to defend their crown by the narrowest of margins against a gutsy IT Carlow side last night.

His second score was a fine individual effort which began with Fitzgibbon intercepting a pass in midfield before sweeping the ball over from distance.

After trailing the challengers for most of the game, that 57th-minute score from out near the sideline put UCC in front for the first time.

But disaster struck for Fitzgibbon in the next play, and he had to endure the final minutes of the drama from the sideline.

“I was just concentrating on getting the ball back,” Fitzgibbon recalls after his side’s slender one-point win at DCU Sportsground.

And then I twisted my ankle so from high to low in a second on the next ball. I had to go off for the last five minutes but Shane Conway showed nerves of steel to pop over the frees.

“It was just incredible,” he added. “The last couple of games have been very close. I think we’ve been asked questions all year as defending champions and we answered all of them. We’re deserving champions again this year.”

Conway followed Fitzgibbon’s point with his seventh free of the game to give UCC a two-point cushion. And while Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland’s deflected free cut the gap to one in the dying stages, DJ Carey’s side failed to grab the equalising score to force extra-time as Jerry Kelly failed to convert a late sideline.

“You wouldn’t put it past him to put it over,” said Fitzgibbon. “I’m just glad it went our way in the end.”

Carlow made the brighter start in the final, hitting two quick goals through Seamus Casey and Kilkenny’s Liam Blanchfield to give them the early advantage.

That brace left UCC trailing for much of the game, and they also finished with 14 players when Niall O’Leary was handed a red card in the second half.

“We knew they were going to get goals,” said Fitzgibbon of the defeated Carlow side. “They’ve scored 14 goals coming into this and we’ve only scored one so they bombarded us in the first half. We had to show all our grit to come back.

“It was the ultimate test down to 14 men but we answered all the questions.”

luke-scanlon-and-michael-harney-tackle-shane-conway Kerry star forward Shane Conway. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kerry forward Conway, who was part of UCC’s triumph last year, was immense in this year’s final, finishing with nine points overall in a man-of-the-match display.

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He was quick to underplay the significance of his tally when speaking to the media after the final whistle, and recalled the celebrations he enjoyed when he brought the Fitzgibbon Cup to his club Lixnaw last year.

It was very nice, something special. I’ll always remember it for the rest of my life. There was a big turnout and all the players enjoyed it too.

“It’s a tough medal to get hold of, no matter what county you’re in. It’s just great now that a lot of this bunch have two and hopefully will drive on again this year.”

It will be a while before Conway can bring the trophy back home again this year, as he prepares to get back in a Kerry jersey this weekend for their Divison 2A clash with Meath.

“The schedule this weekend is I’m going to Meath so I don’t know if it’ll be seen [in Lixnaw] this weekend but we might bring it down some weekend in the future.”

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