Leinster 1-14 Connacht 1-12
Lee Chin led the Leinster charge as they scraped past Connacht by two points in this afternoon’s interprovincial hurling semi-final in Nenagh, writes Jackie Cahill.
Ciarán Hetherton’s charges finished with 14 men as Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly was dismissed in the second half but still managed to progress to a final with Munster or Ulster.
Fennelly walked on a straight red card following an off-the-ball clash with Paul Killeen midway through the second half and while the scores were tied at the time – 1-8 apiece – Leinster still managed to do enough.
Chin was on fire, collecting 1-4 from play, but the apathy surrounding a tournament that failed to go ahead last year was starkly illustrated by the dismal attendance present at MacDonagh Park, estimated at less than 100 people.
And the fare in the first half rarely rose above the mundane, with Leinster 1-7 to 1-2 ahead at half-time in what was a repeat of the 2014 decider.
Indeed, there were more wides than scores before the break, Leinster registering nine to Connacht’s seven. When the dust settled, the sides had racked up as many wides as scores between them – 28.
There were some decent goal chances at both ends that either flashed wide or ended up in the side-netting but two green flags were raised in the first half.
The first of them was the opening score of the game – Chin taking a pass from Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly before crashing a fine shot past James Skehill in the fifth minute.
Leinster were five points clear – 1-2 to 0-0 – before a Connacht team comprised of all Galway players opened its account in the 13th minute, Conor Cooney on target with a free.
Five minutes later, Joseph Cooney poked home a goal for Connacht to keep them in contention but Leinster hit four of the five points approaching half-time to open up a significant interval lead.
Connacht battled back to level and looked good for victory when Leinster went down to 14 men.
But with Chin excellent, Leinster pushed on for the win as subs Ryan O’Dwyer, Gerry Keegan and Martin Kavanagh, with the final point of the game at the death, made contributions to the scoreboard.
There was a lengthy stoppage at the end of the game when O’Dwyer and Matthew Keating collided but after almost ten minutes of stoppage time was played, Leinster held out, Carlow ace Kavanagh firing over the insurance score.
Scorers for Leinster: L Chin 1-4, S Dooley 0-3f, C Crummey, S Ryan, W Walsh, C Fennelly, M Kavanagh, G Keegan & R O’Dwyer 0-1 each.
Scorers for Connacht: J Cooney 1-0, C Cooney (3f) & N Burke (1f) 0-3 each, C Mannion, J Flynn (sl), D Burke, A Harte, J Skehill (f) & P Flaherty 0-1 each.
Connacht (Galway unless stated): J Skehill; M Donohue, P Killeen, J Hanbury; G McInerney, P Mannion, M Conneely; J Coen, D Burke; S Maloney, J Cooney, C Cooney; B Molloy, C Mannion, J Flynn.
Subs: N Burke for Molloy (39), D Glennon for Flynn (39), A Harte for Coen (40), C Freeman for C Cooney (44), P Brehony for Donohue (47), P Flaherty for Killeen (50), M Keating for D Burke (55), J Kilkenny (Roscommon) for McInerney (57), C Dolan (Roscommon) for Maloney (57), S McInerney for Keating (60).
Leinster: J Dempsey (Offaly); M Whelan (Laois), T Doyle (Westmeath), L Ryan (Wexford); P Walsh (Kilkenny), K Joyce (Kilkenny), C Crummey (Dublin); C Fogarty (Kilkenny), S Ryan (Offaly); W Walsh (Kilkenny), L Chin (Wexford), C Dwyer (Laois); S Dooley (Offaly), E Dillon (Dublin), C Fennelly (Kilkenny).
Subs: R O’Dwyer (Dublin) for Dillon (h.t.), G Keegan (Kildare) for Dwyer (38), M Kavanagh (Carlow) for Dooley (38), D Murphy (Carlow) for O’Dwyer (60).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).