By John Hudson
IAN SULLIVAN the experienced University of Limerick manager is hoping to break the cup hoodoo that has haunted him since he took charge of the Shannonsiders several years ago.
Sullivan begins his quest to finally capture the Irish Universities Collingwood Cup when his high-flying UL visit College Park to take on Trinity College in a first round tie this Wednesday (2.0).
After missing out on holding the competition last year due to all the Covid restrictions the action begins this Wednesday in a new format.
The Collinwood Cup dates back to 1914 and this year the normal 3–4-day affair hosted at one university has been replaced by a competition with the rounds run over several weeks in February culminating with the final on March 16.
UL and Mary Immaculate are the only sides in this season’s competition yet to win the flagship cup of the universities season.
Both are in first round action this Wednesday with NUI Galway entertaining Mary Immaculate at Dangan (2.0) while Sullivan must prepare his unbeaten side for what looks like a testing tie at the formidable Trinity fortress.
UL under Sullivan have experienced heartbreak in two recent Collingwood Cup finals plus loosing out to IT Carlow in the 2019 Colleges and Universities Premier League decider.
“We came up against UCD in my first final, that was 2016 at the Mardyke and they pipped us with a late winner in dreadful conditions. Then three years later once again we battled through into another decider. This time it was held at the Markets Field but unfortunately it was another disappointing experience for us as UCC grabbed a couple of goals in extra time to deny us. That wasn’t bad enough but shortly after we suffered another disappointment going down to IT Carlow in the Premier League final at Athlone Town Stadium.”
There have been too many false dawns for UL over the years since they won the 2009 Premier League title apart from a Harding Cup success 10 years later and Sullivan is determined to rectify this and is delighted to have several members of that successful freshers side still in his squad.
“Players like Ed O’Dwyer, Adam Foley and Martin Quaid are still with us and after going through this seasons Premier League South with four straight wins and hitting 14 goals to reach the semi final we’ll be approaching the Trinity tie with plenty of confidence but we’ll still be cautious as in cup ties strange things can happen.”
Trinity boss Adrian Fitzpatrick is well aware of the challenge that his side is facing.
Trinity had a disappointing league campaign failing to win any of their fixtures in the Premier North. But Fitzpatrick is not deterred and feels the side are slowly evolving.
“We managed a good 4-4 draw in our opening league game at home to IT Sligo which was a decent start but subsequent defeats to Maynooth and UCD knock us back. But we’ve worked with the squad and I feel we are in decent shape now to make things difficult for UL.
“Our freshers did well in the recent Harding Cup so with several of them in our squad I’m optimistic that we can improve on our league form and challenge UL.
NUI Galway and Mary Immaculate both failed to impress in their league games. The Galway side who play in the second-tier division failed to win any of their games. While Mary I managed one win in their third-tier division outings which leaves the result of this tie in the balance.
The quarter final will be played on Wednesday February 16 with the line up featuring several tasty ties.
Collingwood Cup: Quarter Finals
DCU v Queens University Belfast, DCU Sports Ground.
Ulster University v NUI Galway or Mary Immaculate College, AUL Complex Dublin.
UCD v UCC, Belfield.
Maynooth University v Trinity College Dublin or University of Limerick, Maynooth University North Campus.