Connacht teamwork decisive

Connacht 1-20 Munster 1-16

At the end, the all-Galway Connacht side deservedly qualified for the final, with the added bonus that it will be played in Rome, next month.

Both teams honoured the competition by naming near full-strength sides and lining out exactly as selected, the star-studded Munster line-up leaving no starting place for Allstar nominees such as Paul Kelly and John Mullane (though both did make a late appearance).

Despite having all those big names, however, and though Munster did have chances to win this one, the tighter teamwork of the Galway/Connacht side ultimately proved superior, leaving team manager Conor Hayes a happy man.

“It was good for us to get an opportunity, in the guise of Connacht, to redeem something from the year, to be able to come out and get rid of some of the disappointment from the League and championship.

"I’d say Tipperary or Wexford or any of those would love to be able to come into a similar competition at this time of the year and play a competitive game.”

The opening quarter was almost exhibition stuff, two talented teams exchanging points from all sorts of angles and distances on a glorious autumn afternoon, leaving it 0-7 to 0-6 for the Munster men after 15 minutes.

Most eye-catching in this period was the performance of the Kerins brothers of Clarinbridge, Mark and Alan, along with Kevin Broderick, while the Clare/Limerick combination of Colin Lynch and Ollie Moran ruled the midfield roost for Munster.

There was a marked drop in the scoring-rate by Munster in the second quarter but crucially, they did score the only major of the first half, a kicked goal from Clareman Tony Griffin, and this helped to tie the scores at the break, 1-8 to 0-11.

At least that was the score recorded by every member of the press-gang and by the scoreboard operator, until that individual was instructed by the fourth official to change the board to read 1-7 to 0-11.

For much of the second half that lost Munster point loomed large, the southern province staying within a goal of Connacht all the way through, but with the brothers Kerins still in fine shooting form (centre-forward Mark seeing off Cork’s Ronan Curran, replaced by a more impressive John Gardiner), full-forward Eugene Cloonan marking his return after injury to the big-time with a fine haul of 1-6 (the goal a trademark belter from a regular 20-m free), it didn’t matter in the end.

The game still wasn’t without controversy, however. Cork and Munster full-back Diarmuid O’Sullivan sent off in the 45th minute after picking up a straight red card for a push on Cloonan.

It looked very innocuous and the Galway man agreed with that sentiment afterwards. The free, Cloonan felt (which he subsequently pointed to put Connacht 1-15 to 1-10 ahead on the official scorecard), would have been punishment enough, but the sending off did colour what was otherwise a splendid event.

Now it’s onto Rome for Connacht, a nice little extra dividend for a solid afternoon’s work, reckoned Mark Kerins. “Rome was a good incentive and we’ll enjoy it now, try to end the season on a high note. It’s been a poor year, we’re trying to change that around for next year.”

Scorers for Connacht: E. Cloonan 1-6 (1-3 frees); M. Kerins 0-6; A. Kerins 0-3; K. Broderick 0-2; K. Burke, D. Tierney, T. Óg Regan, 0-1 each.

Munster: E. Kelly 0-8 (0-6 frees); T. Griffin 1-0; C. Lynch 0-3; B. O’Connor, S. Brick, C. Gleeson, E. Corcoran (65), P. Kelly (free), 0-1 each.

CONNACHT (all Galway): L. Donoghue; D. Joyce, D. Cloonan, F. Moore; F. Healy, T. Og Regan, D. Tierney; A. Cullinane, J. Conroy; A. Kerins, M. Kerins, K. Broderick; D. Forde, E. Cloonan, K. Burke. Sub: O. Fahy (Forde 53).

MUNSTER B. Cummins (Tipperary); T. Feeney (Waterford), D. O’Sullivan (Cork), D. Reale (Limerick); E. Corcoran (Tipperary), R. Curran (Cork), Sean Og O hAilpin (Cork, capt); C. Lynch (Clare), O. Moran (Limerick); T. Griffin (Clare), C. Gleeson (Tipperary), B. O’Connor (Cork); Setanta O hAilpin (Cork), S. Brick (Kerry), E. Kelly (Tipperary). Subs: P. Kelly (Tipperary, Sean Og O hAilpin 33); J. Mullane (Waterford, Brick 36); B. Dunne (Tipperary, Griffin 44); J. Gardiner (Cork, Curran 58).

Referee: B. Kelly (Westmeath)

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