Munster 3-20 Ulster 1-14
Munster manager Liam Sheedy was satisfied with his team’s performance, even if they faded out in the second half at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.
Ahead by 17 points in the 51st minute, Munster only managed two points from play against the wind in the second half while five Ulster scores on the trot in the last 10 minutes helped to put a kinder reflection on the score-line for the hosts.
Munster’s three first-half goals, two from Limerick’s Graeme Mulcahy and the other a Paudie O’Sullivan strike, set them on their way to a convincing win.
Given how heavily counties are preparing for the start of the National League next weekend, Sheedy wasn’t concerned in the slightest by how the team’s scores dried up after the break.
But for Shane Dowling’s six frees, Shane McGrath and Brian O’Meara’s efforts were their only other points.
“We had a platform with the scores we took in the second 10-minute spell of the first half,” he said. “That is what we were looking for.
“We put on five subs as well and we were anxious for other lads to see game-time. These guys have a lot of training done.
“They’re in the middle of their league preparations and either had matches or trained on Saturday with their counties so 70 minutes was a big ask on the back of what they were doing.
“There’s a lot of talk about the Railway Cup being this and that. Those players were very anxious to play in it and I think it’s a really good sign to see the energy and enthusiasm they bring. ”
In the final Munster will face a Connacht team comprising Galway players and they can expect a considerably tougher ride than they got in Armagh.
Ulster captain Neil McManus was his team’s star performer and he weighed in with 1-7, his goal a peach of a score in the first half.
However, he admitted he erred in electing to play against the wind in the first half after winning the toss.
“In hindsight, it was the wrong thing maybe to do because we do lack a bit of confidence against that pedigree of opposition.
“The right thing would have probably been to play with the breeze, take the advantage that was there and stay in the game for as long as possible.”
Munster, despite a strong wind at their backs, were slow to get up and running but found their feet when Mulcahy scored his first goal in the 14th minute.
As Patrick Horgan’s free count increased, O’Sullivan bagged Munster’ second goal in the 17th minute when O’Meara and Mulcahy again combined to give him the chance.
Now 2-6 to 0-3 ahead, Munster were in firm control, although there was a bit of fortune about their third goal when a speculative over-shoulder wind-assisted Shane McGrath puck from the centre of the field flew over the full-back line where a more alert Mulcahy pounced and beat Ryan McGarry for a second time.
It wasn’t much consolation, but the goal of the game belonged to McManus, who brilliantly doubled on a long ball in, a strike reminiscent of his fellow Antrim man Olcan McFetridge’s famous finish against Offaly in 1989.
That 22nd minute score cut Munster’s lead to 10, (3-7 to 1-3), but Munster drove on again and picked up another five points to Ulster’s one before the break, giving them a 3-12 to 1-4 half-time lead.
With Horgan leaving the action in the 51st minute, Dowling took over all free-taking duties after posting two beautiful long-range deadball strikes in the opening stages of the second half.
Five Ulster unanswered scores from the 62nd to the 69th minute, McManus supplying two of them, cut Munster’s lead from 16 to 11 before Dowling struck over his sixth free.
Scorers for Munster: G Mulcahy 2-2; S Dowling 0-7 (0-1 65, 0-6f); P Horgan (0-6, all frees) P O’Sullivan 1-2; P Cronin, S McGrath, B O’Meara 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ulster: N McManus 1-7 (0-4 f); P Shiels 0-3; K Hinphey, R Gaffney, S McCrory, A Grant 0-1 each.
MUNSTER: A Nash; S O’Neill (both Cork), T Condon (Limerick), N Connors (Waterford); B Bugler (Clare), M Walsh (Waterford), W McNamara (Limerick); P Cronin (Cork), S McGrath (Tipperary); S Dowling (Limerick), P Maher (Tipperary); P O’Sullivan (Cork); G Mulcahy (Limerick), B O’Meara (Tipperary), P Horgan (Cork).
Subs for Munster: P Mahony (Waterford) for Horgan, S Daniels (Waterford) for Connors (both 51); G O’Mahony (Limerick) for Bugler, B Maher (Tipperary) for McGrath (both 54); S Sullivan (Tipperary) for P Maher (61).
ULSTER: R McGarry (Antrim); M Warnock (Derry), A Graffin, K Stewart; N McAuley (all Antrim), L Hinphey (Derry), S McCrory (Antrim); B McFall (Antrim), K Hinphey; A Grant (both Derry); R Gaffney (Armagh), P Shiels; S McNaughton, N McManus (all Antrim), O McCloskey (Derry).
Subs for Ulster: C Carson (Antrim) for McFall (19); J Corvan (Armagh) for L Hinphey (h-t); E Clarke (Down) for McCloskey (46).
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow).
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