All eyes turn to IT Carlow on Wednesday night as the National University of Ireland, Galway takes on the University of Limerick in one of the highlights of the university sporting calendar: the Sigerson Cup final. With both teams boasting a host of inter-county players, it’s safe to say each university will fancy their chances of bringing the silverware home. But which side of the Shannon will the cup be heading? Our preview of Wednesday’s marquee tie will take a look at NUIG and UL’s respective runs to the finals, the key men in each side, and ultimately, who the favourites will be to become Sigerson Cup champions in 2022.
Run to the final
NUIG: NUIG’s journey to the final has been far from straightforward. Their bumpy ride started in a first-round victory against Ulster University Jordanstown. That was abandoned two minutes from time following a horrific injury to full-back Seán Mulkerrin. As NUIG was winning, UUJ admitted defeat and the final two minutes were never played. A convincing win against Queens University of Belfast was enough to seal their progression to the quarter-final, setting up a tie with Letterkenny IT. However, the Tribesmen hit another bump in the road here, as Mayo corner-forward Tommy Conroy picked up a nasty cruciate ligament injury, forcing him off before halftime. Nonetheless, NUIG had enough to see off Letterkenny, and MTU Kerry was waiting in the semi-final. They went to battle in Rathkeale, with extra time required to separate the sides. MTU was down to 14 men in regular time, and although they were in the tie until the death, three more red cards at the end of extra time sealed their fate, and NUIG rolled on to the final on a score of 0-18 – 0-15.
UL: UL has impressed many on their way to the final. They opened their account by hammering IT Sligo with a score of 4-15 – 0-07. They followed this up by grinding out a 2-23 – 3-15 win against Letterkenny IT, rolling into the quarter-finals where Queens were waiting for them. A David Clifford masterclass (where he notched 2-04 in a 2-12 – 0-13 win) saw the Treaty men advance to the semi-final against DCU. DCU is a side with a pedigree in this competition, and the close encounter everyone was expecting was exactly what was served up. More inspiration from Clifford was enough for UL, as a victory on a score of 0-14 – 0-11 saw them progress to the final for the first time since 1997.
NUIG – Matthew Tierney: It has been a very good campaign for Tierney. Appointed vice-captain at the start of the year, he has gone on to wear the armband for NUIG, most recently in the semi-final against MTU Kerry. A leader on the field, his ability has also been a key factor in NUIG’s progression to the final. He goes into Wednesday’s final having scored 19 points, with 13 of those coming from frees. If NUIG is to be victorious come Wednesday evening, they will be hoping the Oughterard club man will keep his fine form up.
UL – David Clifford: What is left to be said about David Clifford? Having burst onto the scene after scoring 4-04 for the Kerry minors in the 2017 All-Ireland final, Clifford’s game has gone from strength to strength since, as he’s developed into a talisman for Kerry, his club Fossa, and of course, UL. Points, goals, frees, 45s, Clifford can score them all. He comes into the final in scintillating form, racking up an outrageous 5-20 (0-08 in frees) in four games. A lot of what UL does on Wednesday will depend on what kind of form Clifford is in, and they will certainly fancy their chances with the influential Kerry man leading their charge.
Who is going to win?
No matter who emerges victorious on Wednesday, there’s no doubt a cracking game is in store for the spectators. UL come in as slight favourites, despite NUIG having ground out victories against tough opposition, all while sustaining devastating injuries to key men such as Mulkerrin and Conroy. However, if NUIG can keep UL’s magician Clifford quiet, it should be a relatively straightforward task. But that is much easier said than done. With university glory on the line, Clifford’s mercurial form may be enough to topple NUIG, with each side hoping to lift the coveted Sigerson Cup for the first time in almost 20 years.
The 2022 Sigerson Cup final throws in at 7.30 pm on Wednesday, February 16th, with live coverage available on TG4.
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