Last year was CIT’s first endeavour in the Fitzpatrick Cup but they took the competition by storm as CIT finished runners-up after an entertaining final against rivals UCC. The university have strength in numbers, with another team, CIT 2, taking part this year.
This strength in numbers, shown by the squads high number of players attending training sessions, shows how important recruitment is for the University teams.
“With the Euro Cup being held in CIT last year, it helped promote the game here and our recruitment was boosted because of that,” said CIT coach Eoin O Sullivan.
Having the local AFL Ireland Premiership side The Leeside Lions has also helped the university, as plenty of new players have gained experience through another competitive pathway, which can only be positive for CIT.
Managing to get Eoin on board as coach is a big statement from CIT, as Eoin had been with rivals UCC for five years, which included three Fitzpatrick Cup victories as coach. It will be interesting to see UCC’s response if both sides play each other, but Eoin’s knowledge and understanding of football at both University and international level will be invaluable.
He has already outlined high expectations for the two CIT sides, saying, “it’s simple really, we want to win… We want to go all the way.”
The team is excited for the tournament, and CIT are keen to show their opposition that last seasons performance wasn’t a one-off.
“It’s upbeat, full of excitement and promise. Our boys are itching to test themselves against the best Europe has to offer – and a footy trip has it’s own benefits too! But, first and foremost, the footy is the main draw”, said Eoin. It certainly sounds like CIT are up for the challenge.
Last years Fitzpatrick Cup was hosted in Cork, at UCC, which helped CIT in terms of planning and less travel. However, with this years tournament being hosted in Oxford, it has a different kind of impact on the squad.
“We thought it might hamper us a bit with the competition being so early in February, CIT don’t return until the week,” said Eoin.
“But, credit to the boys, they’ve been working hard and travelled to Cork for training since early January, such is their commitment. I think the idea of playing in such a great venue has it’s own draw too.”
Having the two squads allows for CIT to chop and change with potential line-ups, as well as testing various tactics. Regardless, there will be plenty of competition if the two face off against each other.
For CIT 1, Conor White and Olan Murphy will be key transitioning out of defence with the ball, while Oisin Fitzpatrick and James O Shea offer plenty through the middle. Up front, talls Ian O Callaghan and Paul Geary will be the main targets.
On the CIT 2 side, Jack O Grady will be important off the half back line, Chris McEnry will be important playing in the midfield and Connor Tobin up forward.
Another big tournament is in-store for CIT, with both teams aiming to go far and they will certainly fancy their chances under coach Eoin O Sullivan.
Angus Boyle – AFL Europe