Victory against Leinster keeps Connacht on track to retain Interprovincial Football title

Victory against Leinster keeps Connacht on track to retain Interprovincial Football title

Connacht 2-17 Leinster 1-18

Connacht's quest for back-to-back Interprovincial Football titles for the first time since the 1950s is still on track, after a strong finish at Parnell Park tonight, writes Cóilín Duffy.

The visitors got off to the perfect start, racing into 0-3 to 0-0 lead, thanks to scores from Sligo's Niall Murphy; and Galway duo Damien Comer and Danny Cummins; ensuring all of the Connacht full-forward line were on target inside the opening two minutes.

Leinster relied on John Heslin for their early scores, as they found it hard to penetrate the Connacht defence, with the Westmeath man firing two frees, and two from play to account for all of his sides tally as Connacht led by 0-7 to 0-4 after 18 minutes.

This lead was cut to two points a minute later, as fellow Lake County star Kieran Martin found the target, in a well-worked team moved, started by captain Darren Daly deep in his own defence.

Connacht were moving the ball at pace, and were rewarded for their quick thinking, with Murphy, Johnny Heaney and Fintan Cregg involved, before Ciarán Murtagh finished past Alan Mulhall for the opening goal after 22 minutes, to ensure a double-scores 1-7 to 0-5 lead.

Connacht then kicked their fifth wide, in a spell where Leinster began to dominante in terms of attacking chances, but with mixed results.

Carlow's Daragh Foley and Wicklow's John McGrath added much needed points, the latter through on goals with just David Clarke to beat in the 25th minute, but his effort blazed over the crossbar.

John O'Loughlin, Kieran Martin and Heslin had missed opportunities, as Cummins, Murtagh and Doherty added scores.

Scores from Carlow's Darragh Foley and Wicklow's John McGrath saw Leinster cut the gap further, but Connacht tagged on three unanswered points to take a 1-10 to 0-7 interval advantage.

Leinster made six changes at half-time, and they certainly came out a strong force, outscoring their opponents by 1-4 to 0-3 in the third quarter, with Martin netting a 43rd minute goal.

Leinster continued to work hard and took the lead for the first time with six minutes left, following Heslin's ninth point.

However, Connacht were hungrier in the closing stages, with Murphy netting a late goal, and Niall Daly pointing in injury-time.

CONNACHT: D Clarke; K McDonnell, N McInerney, D Wynne; N Daly (0-1), G O'Donnell, J Heaney; E Smith (0-1), K Higgins; F Cregg (0-1), C Murtagh (1-1), J Doherty (0-6, 4f); N Murphy (1-3), D Comer (0-1), D Cummins (0-3).

Subs: S Mullooly for Heaney (22); C O'Shea for Smith (22); D Murtagh for Murphy (26); E Mulligan for C Murtagh (HT); A Varley for Comer (36); E Smith for O'Shea (41); N Murphy for D Murtagh (43); J Heaney for McInerney (50); C Murtagh for Mulligan (55).

LEINSTER: A Mulhall; D Daly, K Meaney, P Rath; J Dolan, J Small, D Healy; J O'Loughlin (0-1), D Foley (0-1); J McGrath (0-1), P Sharry (0-1), K Martin (1-1); N Dunne, J Heslin (0-10, 8f), N Flynn.

Subs: J Byrne (0-1) for Foley (HT); D Byrne (0-1) for Healy (HT); D Kingston for Dunne (HT); D St Ledger for Meaney (HT); G Guilfoyle for McGrath (HT); B Malone for Rath (HT); S O'Rourke (0-1) for Flynn (43); P Cunningham for Martin (45); P Rath for Dolan (59).

REFEREE: Noel Mooney (Cavan)

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