First-half goals from Peter Harte and Mark Poland set up Joe Kernan’s charges for a tilt at Munster in the decider.
Harte’s wonderful solo goal after 12 minutes put daylight between the sides after Connacht initially traded points with their sharper opponents, while Poland’s finish four minutes later confirmed Ulster’s superiority even with less than 20 minutes of the game played.
As delightful as the scores from Peter Harte, Mark Poland and Martin Penrose — the winners’ second-half goalscorer — were it was Owen Mulligan’s enduring guile that ignited a chilly afternoon for the 500 or so spectators. The Tyrone legend pulled the strings from a deep role, frustrating his marker, Sligo’s Charlie Harrison, and it was Mulligan’s wonder pass that found Poland for the second goal.
With an 11-points interval cushion, 2-10 to 0-5, the result of greater passing and understanding, Ulster could afford to absorb a fleeting mini-revival from the hosts, who relied on Mayo’s Conor Mortimer for nine of their 13 points.
Although they made certain inroads — wing-backs Johnny Davey and Gareth Bradshaw worked tirelessly — Connacht’s attacking paucity meant that only two of their scores came from play.
While Conor Mortimer was their go-to man in attack, some self-indulgence from the Parnells player led to several turnovers, while Connacht failed to utilise Adrian Marren at full-forward, a player who scored 3-5 for Sligo at the same venue the Sunday before.
Scorers for Ulster: M Penrose 1-4, 3f; Peter Harte 1-2; M Poland 1-0; C Gilligan 0-3; O Mulligan 0-2; D Gordon 0-2; C McKeever 0-1; J Loughrey 0-1; R Kavanagh 0-1.
Scorers for Connacht: C Mortimer 0-9, 8f; D Shine 0-2, 2f; N Joyce 0-1, 1f; W McKeon 0-1
ULSTER: B McVeigh (Down), B Donaghy (Armagh), N McGee (Donegal), K Lacey (Donegal), C McKeever (Armagh), D Hughes (Monaghan), J Loughrey (Antrim), D Gordon (Down), R Kavanagh (Donegal), P Harte (Tyrone), M Poland (Down), C Gilligan (Derry), M Penrose (Tyrone), B Coulter (Down), O Mulligan (Tyrone)
Subs: V Corey (Monaghan) for J Loughrey, 56; M Donnelly (Tyrone) for B Coulter, 59; O Lennon (Monaghan) for R Kavanagh, 63; C McCarron (Tyrone) for K Lacey, 66.
CONNACHT: G Claffey (Roscommon), S Purcell (Roscommon), S McDermott (Roscommon), C Harrison (Sligo), G Bradshaw (Galway), W McKeon (Leitrim), M Finneran (Roscommon), B Egan (Sligo), K McLaughlin (Mayo), D Shine (Roscommon), A Dillon (Mayo), C Mortimer (Mayo), A Marren (Sligo), N Joyce (Galway)
Subs: K Higgins (Roscommon) for N Joyce, (ht); T Flynn (Galway) for B Egan, (ht); M Conroy (Mayo) for A Marren, 44; P Conroy (Galway) for M Finneran, 55; M Breheny (Sligo) for D Shine, 63.
Referee: Joe Curley (Meath).