Leinster 1-21 Connacht 1-20
BERNARD Brogan maintained his stunning start to the season with a late match-winner for Leinster at Pearse Park.
The Dublin ace shot nine points in all and put his body on the line for the winning point two minutes from time.
He risked a big hit by throwing his body across an opposing defender but did so bravely to direct the ball over the bar with his fist.
Connacht had looked set to return to a first final since 2008 when they led by five points after 61 minutes but six Leinster points in-a-row sealed their first decider date in seven years.
Brogan shot four of those scores while he also set up marauding wing-back Adrian Flynn for his third point of the day.
He revealed at last week’s launch of the tournament that he craved a first ever final place – and that passion showed in his performance.
It remains to be seen if Flynn, the rest of the Wexford players and Louth’s Paddy Keenan will have any involvement in Sunday’s final at Croke Park.
They’re due to play for their counties in rescheduled Allianz football league ties on Saturday.
But Brogan will definitely be at GAA Headquarters to become the first member of his famous family to play in an Interprovincial final.
“He was exceptional out there,” said Leinster manager Pat Gilroy. “I think Dublin might have a training camp planned for next weekend so he had an extra incentive to try to get the Sunday off! Seriously, he was keen to get into the final as he said during the week. He has played in the competition four or five times and he never won a match. A lot of lads were in the same boat so it was nice to come out the right side of it.”
As usual, the attendance, or lack of, was part of the story.
Just a couple of hundred were on hand at the midlands venue to watch what was a fine game of football.
The first-half was an enjoyable and open affair, with 23 scores between the teams.
Connacht shot some particularly stunning points with Mayo’s Michael Conroy and Galway’s Paul Conroy registering 0-7 between them.
The second-half was even more spectacular with the lead changing hands a couple of times before the thrilling finale.
“If you’re looking for entertainment, that’s as good as you’re going to get in February,” continued Gilroy.
“You wouldn’t sit watching a Premiership game and get as much quality as was out there.
“So hopefully we get a decent crowd for the final and I would expect a good one because everyone knows the proceeds are going to charity. It would be great to see people get out and support it.”
Kildare players were also notable by their absence yesterday. All-Ireland winning Dublin boss Gilroy stated that he contacted many of them and they had genuine reasons to turn him down.
“There were weddings being organised, stuff like that, Johnny Doyle felt he needed a break, so they were bone fide about it,” he said.
“Johnny certainly made it clear to us that he’d love to be playing. But he says he’s 35 and when he gets a break he’s got to take it at the moment. So you have to respect that.”
Leinster moved 1-2 to 0-2 clear early on when Joe Sheridan toe-poked a breaking ball to the net.
They held the lead until minutes before the break but Connacht’s scoring power nudged them 0-14 to 1-8 ahead at half-time.
Aside from the two Conroys, Leitrim’s Emlyn Mulligan shot five points.
The second-half was a tit-for-tat affair until Paul Conroy netted with 12 minutes to go but it must be said that Leinster and Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton was at fault — the goalkeeper dropping a routine catch and Conroy capitalised for an easy goal.
Conroy then took his haul to 1-5 for the day in the 61st minute to put Connacht 1-20 to 1-15 clear.
But that’s when Brogan took over and showed a steely determination to rescue the victory he craved.
Scorers for Leinster: B Brogan 0-9 (5f); A Flynn 0-3; J Sheridan 1-0; B O’Connor, J Heslin & S McCormack 0-2 each; R Barry, P Keenan & MD Macauley 0-1 each.
Scorers for Connacht: P Conroy 1-5 (1 45); E Mulligan 0-6 (4f); M Conroy 0-4; M Brehony 0-3 (2f); A Freeman & L Keegan 0-1 each.
LEINSTER: S Cluxton (Dublin); K Lillis (Laois), G Molloy (Wexford), B Malone (Wexford); M Quinn (Longford), G Brennan (Dublin), A Flynn (Wexford); MD Macauley (Dublin), J Heslin (Wexford); C O’Sullivan (Dublin), R Barry (Wexford), B O’Connor (Offaly); D Dolan (Westmeath), J Sheridan (Meath), B Brogan (Dublin).
Subs: S McCormack (Longford) for Dolan 18, P Keenan (Louth) for Quinn h/t, B Kavanagh (Carlow) for Brennan 46, P Flynn (Dublin) for Sheridan 49, J Stafford (Wicklow) for O’Connor 61.
CONNACHT: D Clarke (Mayo); J Moore (Galway), F Hanley (Galway), G Cafferkey (Mayo); L Keegan (Mayo), N Daly (Roscommon), G O’Donnell (Galway); J Gibbons (Mayo), S O’Shea (Mayo); M Brehony (Sligo), E Mulligan (Leitrim), M Martin (Galway); J Doherty (Mayo), P Conroy (Galway), M Conroy (Mayo).
Subs: M Gottsche (London) for Martin h/t, P Brennan (Leitrim) for Gottsche 59.
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).
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