PRESUMABLY, new Galway manager Ger Loughnane would have shared the general feeling in Pearse Stadium on Saturday evening that the Leinster hurlers could have been given a sterner test in the M Donnelly Interprovincial hurling final.
Watching from the dug-out, he and his fellow selectors witnessed a game that wasn’t a contest in the truest sense of the word.
Primarily, it highlighted weaknesses in the all-Galway Connacht set-up and showed Leinster to be better organised, more skilful and most of all, highly motivated.
Sponsor Martin Donnelly had mixed feelings about the occasion, commenting: “It was a pity that Connacht did not put up a better performance, but the crowd never got behind them in the second half. This was a good Leinster side, starting out with nine Kilkenny players and they played very well.”
More positively, he was pleased that the final was the curtain-raiser to the Ireland/Australia game. “I would thank the GAA for putting it on here. I was delighted with that,” he said.
Leinster manager John Conran’s pleasure was tinged with a regret that it wasn’t a better game: “Connacht did not seem to be able to get it going. Our fellows looked sharp and we took some very good scores. The Kilkenny fellows showed — again — why they are the best. It’s hard to believe they have only four on the GPA team.”
Meanwhile, Connacht manager John Fahey didn’t hide his disappointment, saying that they had some “bad wides” had wasted several good chances of goals.
“We were six points down at half time when we could have been much closer and once they got a few scores at the start of the second half we were always chasing the game.’’
With team captain Eddie Brennan using his speed and skill to score four quick points, Leinster led 0-7 to 0-2 before the home players put in more of an effort. David Tierney, Iarla Tannian and Mark Kerins were prominent before Eugene Cloonan made some headway against a dominant John Tennyson but a Joe Bergin goal had Leinster ahead 1-13 to 0-10 at the break.
In less than 10 minutes the margin had been stretched to nine points and with Rory Hanniffy of many stars at centre-back, Leinster coasted to victory after Fergal Healy lost a good chance of a Connacht goal at the three-quarters stage. After that they never looked like saving the game, before Conran made several substitutions — one of which saw Westmeath’s Darren McCormack becoming the first to win a medal since David Kilcoyne a few years ago.
Scorers for Leinster: R Power 0-7 (0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘65); E Brennan 0-6; J Bergin 1-3, A Fogarty 0-4; E Larkin 0-2; Derek Lyng 0-1.
Connacht: E Cloonan 0-9 (0-7 frees); I Tannian 0-3; F Healy 0-2; M Kerins, R Murray and D Tierney 0-1 each.
LEINSTER: B Mullins (Offaly); R Mullally (Kilkenny), J Tennyson (Kilkenny), J Ryall (Kilkenny); T Walsh (Kilkenny), R Hanniffy (Offaly), Diarmuid Lyng (Dublin); Derek Lyng (Kilkenny), G Hanniffy (Offaly); E Larkin (Kilkenny), R Power (Kilkenny), D Franks (Offaly); E Brennan (Kilkenny, capt.), J Bergin (Offaly), A Fogarty (Kilkenny). Subs: M Jacob (Wexford) for Franks (29th minute); M Travers (Wexford) for Mullally (48th); J Young (Laois) for Derek Lyng (59th); D McCormack (Westmeath) for Diarmuid Lyng and J McCaffrey (Dublin) for Larkin (67th).
CONNACHT (all Galway): L Donoghue; D Joyce, G Mahon, T Og Regan; D. Collins, D Cloonan, J Lee; R Murray, D Tierney; I Tannion, M Kerins, A Kerins; K Burke, E Cloonan, F Healy. Subs: D Hayes for Burke (25th minute); N Healy for A Kerins (44th); MJ Quinn for Mahon (47th); G Farragher for Murray (60th).
Referee: Seamus Roche (Tipperary).