Leinster take interprovincial hurling crown

T.J. Reid, Leinster, in action against Joseph Cooney, Connacht. Picture: SPORTSFILE
T.J. Reid, Leinster, in action against Joseph Cooney, Connacht. Picture: SPORTSFILE

Leinster 2-19 Connacht 1-15

A strong first half display set Leinster on their way to the province's 28th M. Donnelly Interprovincial Hurling Championship success at Nowlan Park this afternoon.

In glorious sunshine, Joe Dooley's charges blasted out of the blocks to lead by 2-13 to 0-8 at half-time.

Despite Connacht cutting the deficit to five points in the 66th minute, Leinster stood firm with a late brace of Richie Power points ensuring a seven-point victory.

Some 658 spectators, including GAA President Christy Cooney, watched a game of high intensity with Leinster certainly strongest in the opening stages.

Kilkenny ace Power registered the first of his 10 points just 35 seconds into the game,. He grabbed his only score of the day from play just a minute later.

David Burke opened the Connacht account after two-and-a-half minutes with a point from play, but Anthony Cunningham's men struggled for long spells of the opening half, with Leinster firmly on top.

Dublin's Ryan O'Dwyer and Offaly's Shane Dooley helped ensure a 0-4 to 0-1 lead for Leinster in the eighth minute.

Conor Cooney kept Connacht in touch from placed balls, in his third game in as many days. The St. Thomas clubman had also played a pivotal role in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick who won the Ryan Cup title just 24 hours earlier.

Cooney fired over four first half points, including a ninth minute score which cut Leinster's advantage to 0-4 to 0-2. Offaly's Joe Bergin and Bernard Burke then traded points before Leinster suddenly cut loose, dominating the midfield sector in particular.

This stranglehold of the middle third, coupled with some lively attacking play, put Connacht on the back foot over the next 15 minutes. Leinster outscored their opponents by 2-7 to 0-2 during this spell with O'Dwyer netting both of their goals.

Kilkenny's Michael Fennelly provided the pass for Tipperary native O'Dwyer to drill the ball past Connacht goalkeeper Jamie Ryan in the 11th minute.

Points followed from Power and Offaly duo Bergin and Dooley to make it 1-7 to 0-3. Cooney soon pegged a point back for Connacht, but Leinster got motoring again with a trio of Power points and a Dooley white flag opening up an 11-point lead, with 13 minutes to go until the break.

Iarla Tannian claimed his only score of the contest for Connacht in the 23rd minute, but O'Dwyer's second major left the westerners with much to do.

Kilkenny's Eoin Larkin gathered possession and took on the Connacht defence before O'Dwyer's inch-perfect shot pushed his side 2-12 to 0-5 clear in the 26th minute.

Connacht rallied before the interval with three of the last four points - two Cooney frees and a Bernard Burke effort - reducing the arrears to 2-13 to 0-8.

Indeed the gap could have been tighter at the turnaround, but a blazing goal effort from a Cooney free in injury-time was kept out by the Leinster defence.

Although Power landed the first two points on the restart for Leinster, there were signs of a Connacht resurgence. Buoyed by the introduction of half-time substitute Damien Hayes, they laid down a firm marker in the second half.

12 minutes into the half Cooney fired over his fifth point before Connacht's only goal of the hour came for Portumna clubman Hayes.

It was a move which started in the heart of the Connacht defence, with David Collins getting the ball to Joe Cooney who delivered a long range shot on top of his full-forward line. Hayes did not need to look twice, as he slotted the ball past Leinster's reserve goalkeeper David Herity in the 48th minute.

Leinster pegged a point back through Power, but his side were struggling to get going again. A brace of Conor Cooney frees cut the deficit to eight points as the game entered the final quarter.

Hayes and Cooney both spurned chances to cut the deficit further, while at the opposite end Larkin registered his first score for the hosts.

Scores were hard to come by at this stage - a seven-minute barren spell was ended by Conor Cooney who kicked off a good spell for Connacht.

The 11-times Interpro champions registered four unanswered points, including two from Cooney, to cut the gap to five points with just over four minutes left on the clock.

Both sides had chances come off the uprights in the closing stages, but Leinster closed out a deserved win with two late Power points.

Afterwards Leinster captain Jackie Tyrrell accepted the cup on behalf of his province from GAA President Christy Cooney.

Scorers - Leinster: R Power 0-10 (0-8f, 0-1 '65'), R O'Dwyer 2-2, S Dooley 0-3, J Bergin, E Larkin 0-2 each.

Connacht: C Cooney 0-9 (0-9f), D Hayes 1-1, B Burke 0-3, I Tannian, D Burke 0-1 each.

LEINSTER (Kilkenny unless stated): G Maguire (Dublin); P Murphy, K Rossiter (Wexford), N Corcoran (Dublin); T Walsh, J Tyrrell, R Hanniffy (Offaly); M Rice, M Fennelly; R Power, J Bergin (Offaly), E Larkin; S Dooley (Offaly), R O'Dwyer (Dublin), TJ Reid.

Subs used: D Herity for Maguire (half-time), P Ryan (Dublin) for Reid (48 mins), B Murtagh (Westmeath) for O'Dwyer (49), R Jacob (Wexford) for Dooley, D Kenny (Offaly) for Corcoran (both 61).

CONNACHT (Galway unless stated): J Ryan; P Shiel, D Collins, G O'Halloran; N Donoghue, F Moore, J Cooney; A Harte, J Grealish; J Coen, C Cooney, I Tannian; B Burke, B Daly, D Burke.

Subs used: P Gordon for Grealish (33 mins), D Hayes for Coen (half-time), J Regan for Tannian (42), D Glennon for Daly (48), K Raymond (Sligo) for Donoghue (60).

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)

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