Instead, it will be John McIntyre’s Connacht who will be heading to Abu Dhabi for a final date with Leinster next month after an unlikely comeback at Pearse Stadium on Saturday.
It wasn’t exactly desert storm stuff but the introduction of Kevin Hynes and Cyril Donnellan to the predominantly Galway backboned side, injected sufficient influence around the middle of the field for Niall Healy and Aongus Callanan to net the scores.
For McIntyre and his management team, the victory helped restoring some belief after their shocking display in going down by 12 points to Dublin the previous week.
“Galway tend to lose these sort of matches so it was good to complete the comeback and win it. From that perspective it was good and it retrieves some of the disappointment of last Sunday.
“At the same time no one will be losing the run of themselves after this, there is a lot to be done,” said McIntyre, who fielded an all-Galway side except for midfielder Keith Raymond from Sligo who notched the opening point.
He was pleased with the way his side kept plugging away before coming with a flourish to outscore Munster by 2-8 to 0-5 in the final quarter.
“We had more desire to win the match when it mattered most. Dublin had it last week against us. And fair play to Niall Healy, he showed a lot of bottle to go for the goal at the end,” added McIntyre.
Healy finished with 1-6, firing home the match-winning goal in the final minute, after earlier setting up the equally sharp Aongus Callanan for the goal which brought them back into contention.
“It was a terrible way to lose a match,” admitted Munster manager Len Gaynor. “We looked like we would go on and win it when we went seven up in the second-half. We matched them point for point and held that lead but then seemed to run out of steam and fair play to Connacht, they finished the job.”
Munster looked to be coasting to victory when they led by seven going into the final quarter.
They were 2-7 to 0-9 clear at the break thanks to goals from Paul Kelly and Ken McGrath while Tony Griffin hit a couple of good points.
Seamus Prendergast hit three second-half points for Munster but then Healy set up Callanan for a goal which sparked Connacht into life and narrowed the margin to 2-13 to 1-12 going into the final quarter. Subs Hynes and Donnellan announced their arrival by firing over a brace of points each as well as sending plenty of ball into Healy and Callana.
Yet, Munster still led by two points in the final minute when Healy pounced for a fine goal and then sealed the win with an insurance point seconds later.
Scorers for Connacht: N Healy, 1-6 (1f, 1‘65’); A Callanan, 1-2; A Coen, 0-2, (1f); K Hynes, C Donnellan, 0-2 each; K Raymond (0-1); A Cullinane, K Hooban, J Gantley, B Burke, M Ryan, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Munster: A O’Shaughnessy, 0-6 (all frees); P Kelly, 1-2; K McGrath, 1-1; S Prendergast, T Griffin, 0-3 each; S Molumphy, S McGrath, J Clancy, 0-1 each.
CONNACHT (Galway unless stated): E Ward; M Ryan, D McClearn, F Moore; A Coen, B Costello, B Burke; A Cullinane, K Raymond (Sligo); M Kerins, P Killilea, K Hooban; N Healy, J Gantley, A Callanan.
Subs: K Hynes for Killilea, (37); C Donnellan for Kerins, (43); R Murray for Hooban, (50); F Healy for Raymond, (58).
MUNSTER: B Cummins (Tipperary); C O’Brien (Tipperary), D Prendergast (Waterford), E Murphy (Waterford); B Dunne (Tipperary), M Walsh (Waterford), S Hickey (Limerick); S McGrath (Tipperary), D O’Grady (Limerick); S Prendergast (Waterford), K McGrath (Waterford), T Grffin (Clare); A O’Shaughnessy (Limerick), S Molumphy (Waterford), P Kelly (Tipperary).
Subs: D Fitzgerald (Tipperary) for Murphy, (29); J Woodlock (Tipperary) for O’Grady, (ht); J Clancy (Clare) for Kelly, (50); S O’Sullivan (Waterford) for S McGrath, (52).
Referee: F Smith (Meath).