Munster too strong for Connacht

Munster's Lar Corbett in action today against Brian Flaherty of Connacht. Picture: Inpho

Munster 1-22 Connacht 0-15

Munster proved too strong for Anthony Cunningham’s all-Galway Connacht side in Ennis, winning the M Donnelly Interprovincial Hurling title by a 1-22 to 0-15 margin.

Following a first half goal from Paudie O’Sullivan, fellow Corkman Patrick Horgan tallied up 0-9 for Liam Sheedy’s men with Michael Walsh and Lar Corbett also shining.

Joe Canning and company were kept quiet and Munster ran riot in the second period, scoring eight points in-a-row to banish any chance of the cup heading west.

In the opening half Connacht created a gilt-edged goal chance within seconds as Niall Burke was released by Cyril Donnnellan but his shot was well saved by Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash.

The westerners then got off the mark thanks to a Joe Canning free, before Munster took control for a spell and hit four unanswered points thanks to Shane Dowling, two frees from Patrick Horgan and Nash also pelting over a free from his own 65-metre line.

Connacht, who were forced to do without skipper Fergal Moore and Tony Og Regan due to a slight groin strain and flu respectively, began to find rhythm midway through the half.

Thus the visitors hit four points of their own without reply to take the lead, with Tadhg Haran slotting over following a neat ball from Niall Healy before Donnellan, a Canning free and Healy put them 0-5 to 0-4 in front.

With 20 minutes on the clock, Munster hit back again with Tipperary's Lar Corbett beginning to cause all sorts of problems at centre-forward. Dowling’s double and another free from Horgan gave Sheedy’s side the incentive.

At this stage Munster were rampant and as Connacht were struggling to keep them at bay Graeme Mulcahy played a fine diagonal ball to Paudie O’Sullivan, who made the angle tight for himself at the far post but still managed to find the top corner of the net.

Seconds later O’Sullivan then picked out Mulcahy who obliged with a fine point to make it 1-8 to 0-5 to the Munstermen.

Connacht kept up their fight by scoring three points in-a-row themselves, with Canning dispatching two frees and Niall Healy tapped over after Haran was denied by Nash’s block when he shot goalwards.

But as the half drew to a close Munster again reaffirmed their six-point cushion as Pa Cronin’s point was followed by two more Horgan frees. David Collins ensured Connacht had the final say of the half but they trailed 1-11 to 0-9 at the interval.

In the second period, Connacht fell further behind as Horgan, Mulcahy and Cronin pointed and the western province immediately replied with quick-fire scores from Canning and Healy.

However the visitors would wait a whopping 22 minutes for their next point, with Munster taking full advantage. They scored 0-8 without reply as Cronin, O’Sullivan and Mulcahy all raised white flags, adding to three more Horgan frees and the game was over.

Although their defence was without the aforementioned Regan and Moore, manager Anthony Cunningham will be concerned at their second half demise ahead of Galway’s Allianz Hurling League clash with Clare at the same venue next weekend.

The celebrations of Munster's first Interpro success since 2007 were tame as only a few hundred witnessed the encounter, and questions still hang over the future of the Championships.

MUNSTER: A Nash (0-1, 0-1f); S O’Neill, T Condon, S Daniels; B Bugler, M Walsh, W McNamara; P Cronin (0-3), B Maher; S Dowling (0-3), L Corbett, P O’Sullivan (1-2); G Mulcahy (0-3), S O’Sullivan (0-1), P Horgan (0-9, 0-7f).

Subs used: E Kelly for Cronin (59 mins), T Kenny for S O'Sullivan, Patrick Maher for Dowling (both 63), C Ryan for Corbett, G O'Mahony for McNamara (both 66).

CONNACHT: C Callanan; J Coen, K Hynes, P Killeen; B Flaherty, D Collins (0-1), N Donoghue; I Tannian (0-1), A Smith; P Brehony, N Burke, C Donnellan (0-1); N Healy (0-3), J Canning (0-6, 0-5f), T Haran (0-1).

Subs used: D Glennon (0-1) for Brehony (27 mins), J Glynn for Burke (29), J Cooney (0-1) for Killeen (41), D Hayes for Haran (46), A Harte for Smith (55).

Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois)

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