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Carlow and DJ looking to make history

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AMBITION: Niall Brassil of IT Carlow is congratulated by manager DJ Carey following the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final win over Mary Immaculate College Limerick. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

AMBITION: Niall Brassil of IT Carlow is congratulated by manager DJ Carey following the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final win over Mary Immaculate College Limerick. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

AMBITION: Niall Brassil of IT Carlow is congratulated by manager DJ Carey following the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final win over Mary Immaculate College Limerick. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

DJ Carey was known for creating magic moments on the pitch as a player and he stands on the verge of doing something similar as a manager tonight, with IT Carlow chasing their first Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup.

The Kilkenny hurling legend has been at the Carlow helm during a period of rapid progression, given that they were competing in the Ryan Cup, third-level colleges' second tier, less than a decade ago.

Carey is ably assisted on the sideline by Michael Dempsey, one of the men behind those continuous improvements having also worked as Brian Cody's right-hand man during a golden period in Kilkenny which yielded eight All-Ireland SHC titles from 2005.

Given the pair's stature, it shouldn't be surprising that Carlow have made such strides and their semi-final defeat of Mary Immaculate College last Saturday had all the hallmarks of the Cats.

When there was a sniff of a goal, they went for the onion bag, with five green flags shared between Wexford's Cathal Dunbar (two), Carlow's Chris Nolan, Laois's Stephen Bergin and Kilkenny's Liam Blanchfield.

This is just their second Fitzgibbon Cup final appearance - they lost to Mary I in the 2017 decider - but this is a new team, with Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland and substitute Tommy Nolan the only two survivors to feature in their last-four clash.

With four players from Wexford, Laois and Kilkenny, as well as a pair from Tipperary - including Borris-Ileigh's All-Ireland club final star Jerry Kelly - and one from Carlow, there is a serious spread of talent for Carey to pick from.

In their way, however, stand a formidable UCC side eyeing their 40th Fitzgibbon crown, having survived a semi-final scare against hosts DCU, with Mark Coleman's sideline heroics saving their bacon.

Tom Kingston leads the skull and crossbones as they chase back-to-back titles with a star-studded side featuring Cork stars Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston, Robert Downey and Robbie O'Flynn, as well as Tipp powerhouse Mark Kehoe and Limerick's Conor Boylan.

The contrasts between the two colleges are stark with IT Carlow hoping to go one better than their Sigerson Cup side, which delivered a few shocks en route to the final.

Carlow have a fighting chance should Blanchfield and Dunbar get motoring but it's hard to look past UCC and they can deny the underdogs in another thriller.

UCC v IT Carlow, DCU Sportsground, Live, SpĆ³rt TG4 YouTube, 7.30