Davis ensures final tango in Paris for Leinster

Leinster 1-10 Munster 1-9

At the death, the crescendo came courtesy of Longford's Pádraic Davis, who rose from the bench six minutes earlier to fire the winner.

Viva la France, roared Meath's Evan Kelly as he shoved open the Leinster dressing room door afterwards in reference to the inter-provincial final's Parisian destination in two weeks' time. The Railway Cup has always mattered to the players and the French cherry on top meant that this clash would be no leisurely stroll around the park. That was clearly evident from the first minute when Laois' Tom Kelly thundered into Johnny McCarthy with the kind of bone-jarring shoulder charge that makes you wince. Kelly came off the worse for it, but the tone was set all the same.

Still and all, the early indicators didn't give any inkling of the bounty of entertainment to come. Munster, back-boned by five Kerry All-Ireland winners, hit the ground running, but the sense of ring-rustiness was omnipresent.

By the break, 10 wides had been amassed, six of them from Leinster, but there were occasional flashes of what was to come. Paul Galvin, who was influential all day, injected some pace into the opening stages with a superb point after eight minutes and, despite their travails in front of the posts, both sides manage to register two points apiece by the midway stage of the half.

Then came the first pearl of the afternoon. Paul Galvin initiated the move with a pass to Conor Fitzgerald and the Limerick corner-forward transferred to Colm Cooper, who in turn fed an unmarked Declan Browne on the edge of the square. Leinster were duly made pay for such criminal negligence as Browne found Gary Connaughton's net.

Leinster recovered quickly enough with three points to Munster's two before the interval, but Luke Dempsey's boys could have left the field with their noses in front had Alan Brogan's neat turn and shot resulted in a goal instead of a brush with the butt of Séamus O'Donnell's goalpost.

At 1-4 to 0-5 in favour of the southerners, it was finely balanced but, within five minutes of the restart, the game seemed to be escaping Leinster's grip. Munster had only outscored them by three points to one in that period, but they were clearly turning the screws.

Then came the twist. Noel Garvan, having the kind of inspired afternoon that Laois will be praying for next summer, claimed possession 40 yards out from Munster's goal, looked up and floated a deadly-accurate high ball into the clutches of Brogan. The Dublin youngster was turning his marker, Johnny McCarthy, before his feet hit the ground and that split-second was all he needed to slip the ball low past O'Donnell and into the rigging.

Browne stemmed the tide for Munster with another free five minutes later to reopen a two-point margin, but Leinster's late surge was only beginning to crank into gear. Tom Kelly and Damien Healy made frequent raids into enemy territory from the half-back line, while Mattie Forde and Evan Kelly were bursting their guts further up the field.

Doyle and Forde erased the gap with efforts after 49 and 53 minutes and then Healy joined the chorus with a cool finish with three minutes to go. The temperature was rising steadily by now and it showed when Evan Kelly and Stephen Lucey squared up for handbags. That didn't change much, though. Munster were fading and their only response was a pointed free from Browne that drew them level. Then came Davis's two cents' worth and how valuable it was.

"It was a good, exciting game," said a hobbling Forde afterwards. "People say that the interest has gone out of the Railway Cup, but I think we showed there is still a lot going for the competition. The fact there's a trip to Paris for the final meant there was a little bit extra to play for."

LEINSTER: G Connaughton; K Slattery, T Kelly, J Keane; D Healy (0-1), N McKeigue, K Fitzpatrick; N Garvan, P Keenan; E Kelly, P Barden, J Doyle (0-4f); A Brogan (1-1), P Kelleghan (0-1), M Forde (0-2).

Subs: T. Walsh for P Keenan 37, P Davis (0-1) for Barden 53.

MUNSTER: S O'Donnell; J. McCarthy, C. Whelan, M. O'Riordan; E. Sexton, E. Fitzmaurice, C. Mullane; J. Galvin, G. Canty; E. Brosnan, M. Gavin, P Galvin (0-1); C Fitzgerald, D. Browne (1-5, 5f), C. Cooper (0-2).

Subs: S Lucey for O'Riordan 30, C McCarthy for Brosnan 46, S Kelly for Gavin 50, D Russell 52.

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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