Fitzpatrick Cup 2018 Team Preview – UCC Bombers

In the lead up to the 2018 Fitzpatrick Cup to be held once again in Cork, Ireland on the 3rd of February we’ll be taking a look at each side attending the annual universities tournament. Next up are 2018 Fitzpatrick Cup hosts the UCC Bombers, who are looking to hold onto their crown as reigning champions of last year’s tournament. 

What has happened since the last Fitzpatrick Cup?

Last year the Bombers had a very successful year on the field, retaining the Rebel Shield, winning the Fitzpatrick Cup, and having players in their ranks selected for National Teams. This year however, we have had a huge turnover in players, and the formation of CIT Saints has given us a new challenge. Our first game of the year was the Rebel Shield Rd. 1 vs current AFL Ireland premiers the Leeside Lions. Things didn’t really go to plan there, but it’s a steep learning curve – we probably took more from that game than most would think. Bombers also have drawn a high number of players to training this year, pushing one another to improve week on week. This year a whole host of new players are eager to go on and retain the Fitz.

Fitzpatrick Cup History
Inaugural winners of the Fitzpatrick Cup 2013, Current holders – 2017
Runners-Up 2015 & 2016

Players to watch
With the Leeside Lions being the current ARFLI Premiership winners a lot of our Bombers are playing 12 months of the year. The Bombers provided a number of players who went on to play for the Lions, with the likes of James “Enzo” O’Callaghan and Mark Kelleher have gained valuable experience of playing against players who have been playing footy for a number of years.
A number of Bombers have been called up to trials for the Irish Warriors over the past few months also, and with the likes of Oisín Collins and Shane Sull – fresh off an impressive IC17, and the experience of Ian O Brien & Rory O Donnell, we’re in decent shape.

While the Bombers have an exciting crop of new players, providing the team with new and fresh ideas, players like Shane Quigley, Marcus Prendeville and Mitch are just a few of the new players the Bombers have on board this year. You mix this in with Bombers that have Fitzpatrick Cup experience like Evan O Connor, Kev Sull and Conor Beasley, I think it’s safe to say the Bombers go into this year’s Fitzpatrick Cup full of hope and expectation.

So who’s in charge?
The Bombers are led by Lions & Warriors stalwart Eoin O Súilleabháin, and Leeside Lions successful coach Chris O Brien. Eoin has represented the Irish Warriors over a number of years and has won it all as a player. Now he hopes to continue that success as a manager. Chris O Brien has been the figurehead behind the Leeside Lions’ revival in the last few seasons, and their back to back Premierships. He too will be hoping continue this success with the college.

Also, the lads have enlisted experienced players in Dean Johnson & Conor O Halloran as coaches, who bring new drills and ideas to training each week. All in all, a strong and motivated coaching staff.

Interview with Eoin O Súilleabháin – Head Coach of UCC Bombers

Aims for the tournament?

“Our aims are to win it. No point in beating around the bush, it’s what we’re all aiming for. To be European Intervarsity Champions. On top of that, we also want to host a great tournament. The Fitzpatrick Cup is fast becoming one of the biggest events on the AFL Europe calendar, and we want to push on from last year and make this year’s instalment the best yet.”

Which players have the X-factor?

“It’s always tough to pick out individual players from a list. In UCC we have a high turnover of players, through graduation, impact of other sports, etc. so we essentially have a new crop each September, boosted by a few players with a year or 2 experience. It’s an exciting prospect, and when you see their natural talent on show, you just need to guide them along.
We have lost a few experienced players to CIT (formed this year), but have a few in our list that had call ups to the National Team, and some GAA and rugby converts that have taken to the game well, so it’ll be interesting to see how they perform.”

How have the preparations been going?

“Preparations have been going well on the whole. Pre-Christmas we had a few in-house games and warm-up games v CIT, and we had the first leg of The Rebel Shield recently which was another opportunity to get a run out. Although these weren’t in a 9s format, we’ve been focusing on that at training. Numbers have been great, application and effort the same, so hopefully it will all come together.”

What are the main attributes of your team?

“It’s tough to pick specific attributes when we haven’t played fully as a team yet, but the intensity of some of our guys for the footy is amazing.  The boys go whole-heartedly for the ball, take knocks and bumps, and just get on with it.
That, coupled with a few good legs and big grabs, it helps to get a good footing in a game.”