The powerbases of hurling in Leinster and Munster was reflected in the starting sides chosen by the respective managers Joe Dooley and Liam Sheedy for this Martin Donnelly Interprovincial Championship hurling semi-final in Nowlan Park yesterday.
All-Ireland champions Kilkenny supplied 11 for Leinster (all six backs, both midfielders, three forwards), while Tipperary — beaten All-Ireland finalists last year and champions of 2010 — had three of the Munster defence, one midfielder and two forwards while a seventh, Conor O’Mahony, missed out through illness.
On the evidence of the display on the field the centre of power hasn’t changed since that All-Ireland final with Leinster powering to a three-goal half-time lead (3-8 to 0-8) then holding on reasonably comfortably to record a four-point win. But it wasn’t an all Kilkenny show by any means with Offaly forwards Joe Bergin (1-1) and the manager’s son Shane Dooley (0-5) contributing 1-6 between them.
Leinster began well, midfielder Michael Fennelly having the ball in Donal Og Cusack’s net in just the second minute after a surging run down the middle, and with points from Brian Hogan, Dooley (2), Richie Power and Bergin, against points from Shane McGrath and Pa Cronin, they led by six after seven minutes (1-5 to 0-2). That lead was extended to nine in the 26th minute (2-8 to 0-5), Joe Bergin with the second Leinster goal, set up by Richie Hogan after a short Cusack puck-out went awry.
Munster hit back with three points before the break, Clare youngster John Conlon (a late call-up) was in fine form, but the third Leinster goal, a rifle-shot penalty to the net by Richie Power, enabled Leinster to keep that three-goal cushion at the break.
Munster were far more organised at the back in the second-half, Michael Cahill, Paul Curran and Tom Condon (especially) really upping their game, and they began to eat into the Leinster lead. John Conlon began the fightback with a first-time goal in the 39th minute after fine setup work by Horgan, Brick Walsh and Brendan Maher, and the points followed. John Gardiner hit his third long-range point from placed balls, Conlon himself, his Clare teammate Patrick Donnellan, Horgan, Brick Walsh and another Waterford sub, Pauric Mahony, all got on the scoreboard and with less than five minutes on the clock the deficit was down to 3-11 to 1-15.
Then came the game’s defining moment. Pauric Mahony was fouled in the square, but Patrick Horgan’s penalty was saved and from the resultant clearance the ball was worked downfield for Richie Power to point. Munster kept up the fight but Leinster finished strong, a huge point from halfway by Colin Fennelly making it all secure.
Overall it was an entertaining game, all the stars on the Leinster team especially doing themselves justice (none more so than Tommy Walsh, let it be noted), a game deserving of a bigger audience than the 1500 estimated attendance, reckoned Joe Dooley.
“It’s a pity this game wasn’t televised live, every hurling man and woman in the country would have been watching it if it was. It’s a disgrace. It was very competitive but I knew from early in the week that Leinster were up for it and I knew Liam Sheedy’s Munster would be up for it as well. It wasn’t going to be an exhibition game.”
Munster counterpart Sheedy, was of like mind. “People would be of the opinion that it (the interpro series) doesn’t matter but I thought it was a fine game. If that’s a taste of things to come in the National Leagues — I thought there were some fabulous passages of play. The Leinster lads got the run on us in the first-half, got the goals and a cushion. We were ten points down at one stage and brought it back to one. The lads tried their best.”
It wasn’t championship fare, nor anything like it, but as stated by both managers it was certainly quality hurling from quality players.
Scorers for Leinster: R Power 1-5 (1-0p, 0-3f); S Dooley 0-5 (0-1f); J Bergin 1-1; M Fennelly 1-0; B Hogan, E Larkin, C Fennelly, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Munster: J Conlon 1-3; P Horgan 0-3; J Gardiner 0-3 (0-2f, 0-1 65); P Mahony 0-2 (0-2f); M Walsh, P Cronin, S McGrath, P Donnellan, E Kelly (free), 0-1 each.
LEINSTER: G Maguire (Dublin); P Murphy (Kilkenny), N Hickey (Kilkenny), J Tyrell (Kilkenny, capt.); T Walsh (Kilkenny), B Hogan (Kilkenny), JJ Delaney (Kilkenny); M Fennelly (Kilkenny), M Rice (Kilkenny); R O’Dwyer (Dublin), R Power (Kilkenny), E Larkin (Kilkenny); S Dooley (Offaly), J Bergin (Offaly), R Hogan (Kilkenny).
Subs: W Hyland (Laois, R Hogan inj. 35); D Stamp (Wexford, B Hogan inj. 35); C Fennelly (Kilkenny, O’Dwyer 54); R Hanniffy (Offaly, Bergin 61); R Jacob (Wexford, Rice 66).
MUNSTER: D Óg Cusack (Cork); M Cahill (Tipperary), P Curran (Tipperary), T Condon (Limerick); J Gardiner (Cork), P Maher (Tipperary), P Donnellan (Clare); S O’Sullivan (Waterford), S McGrath (Tipperary); P Cronin (Cork), M Walsh (Waterford), B Maher (Tipperary); J Conlon (Clare), E Kelly (Tipperary, capt.), P Horgan (Cork).
Subs: D O’Grady (Limerick, McGrath inj. 39); S Molumphy (Waterford, Cronin 44); G Ryan (Tipperary, Kelly 58); K Moran (Waterford, Donnellan 67).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).
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