Munster only winners as fans stay away

A decent contest of football deservedly won by Munster was overshadowed by the paltry crowd at yesterday’s M Donnelly Interprovincial semi-final at Parnell Park.

A crowd of between 600 and 800 patrons attended a game which saw the visitors hold off Leinster to keep their chances of retaining the competition alive.

Munster manager Ger O’Sullivan was genuinely surprised by how big the attendance was, given he felt there was little marketing done for the game.

“That’s actually more than I expected to see there, to be honest. In any business, and the GAA is a business, you must market.”

He added: “Somebody only told me today that if you brought along two kids an adult would get in free, I didn’t even know that.”

O’Sullivan would like to see the pre-season competitions condensed to allow the Interprovincial semi-finals be played in late January with a final around St Patrick’s Day.

On the matter of the crowd, his Leinster equivalent Sean Boylan had a blast at GAA officials for talking down the competition.

“Would I have liked to have seen more people? I would, yeah. Has there been a lot of negative talk about it? Yeah, there’s been quite a lot of negative talk about it, particularly from people from within our own association, people who would have had a lot of prominence in the association over the years.

“But I think sometimes when we get certain positions we forget about the lads who play the game. We asked 25 lads, every single one of those wanted to play for Leinster.”

Those players only met up for the first time as a group yesterday morning and while they had impressive returns from Paddy Keenan and Bernard Brogan, they were struggling from the start when they went eight points down in the 15th minute.

Munster had played a Cork selection in Mallow on Wednesday and most of the players stayed up in Dublin on Saturday, O’Sullivan praising the Munster Council for taking the team’s preparations seriously.

The seven Division 4 players in the starting team didn’t look out of place alongside their more illustrious Cork and Kerry teammates like Paddy Kelly and Tomás Ó Sé who had fine games.

Waterford’s Gary Hurney was a threat at full-forward in the first-half, scoring his side’s goal, while Clare’s Gary Brennan at midfield and David Tubridy, who kicked six points, put in noteworthy displays.

“Great credit to the so-called weaker counties, Waterford, Clare, Limerick guys,” said O’Sullivan. “They are all playing Division 4, but they showed there that they would get on any inter-county team.”

Tubridy bagged two of Munster’s first three scores before Hurney gave Kevin Reilly the slip to beat Stephen Cluxton.

Leinster didn’t score until the 17th minute via a Bernard Brogan free but by that stage Munster had 1-5 to their account.

A Cahir Healy goal in the 27th minute after Mikey Conway had seen his shot parried by Alan Quirke followed by Keenan and Diarmuid Connolly scores narrowed the gap to four.

Connolly then shot into the side-netting and it proved a costly miss as Paudie Kissane and Ian Ryan tagged on points to push Munster ahead 1-10 to 1-4 at the break.

Four scores in as many minutes from Brogan and the impressive Keenan into the new half brought Leinster back into the game but the next five white flags were raised for Munster. Hurney added a brace and Limerick’s Stephen Lavin registered the score of the game when he intercepted a ball in defence and raced up the field to offer himself as an option to finish the move.

It was then Leinster’s turn to find the posts and Keenan and Brogan were again obliging to narrow the deficit to two but Tubridy accepted a pass from Ó Sé to successfully send over.

O’Sullivan revealed afterwards he will have more Kerry players — possibly four — available for next weekend’s final against Ulster.

Scorers for Munster: D Tubridy 0-6 (0-3 f); G Hurney 1-2 (0-1 free); I Ryan 0-2; P Kelly, T Ó Sé, J Cooke, P Kissane, S Lavin, M Collins 0-1 each.

Scorers for Leinster: B Brogan (five frees), P Keenan 0-6 each; C Healy 1-0; D Connolly, S Cluxton (free) 0-1 each.

MUNSTER: A Quirke (Cork); A O’Mahony (Kerry), J McCarthy, S Lavin (both Limerick); T Ó Sé (Kerry); G Canty, P Kissane (both Cork); G Brennan (Clare), S Scanlon (Kerry); P Kelly, P Kerrigan (both Cork), J Cooke (Limerick); D Tubridy (Clare), G Hurney (Waterford), I Ryan (Limerick).

Subs for Munster: M Collins (Cork) for Kerrigan (45); S Briggs (Waterford) for Cooke (57).

LEINSTER: S Cluxton (Dublin); G Molloy (Wexford), K Reilly (Meath), C Healy (Laois); E Bolton (Kildare), S McAnarney (Meath), L Glynn (Wicklow); MD Macauley (Dublin), P Keenan (Louth); M Conway (Kildare), A Brogan (Dublin), B Quigley (Laois); B Brogan, D Connolly, K McManamon (all Dublin).

Subs for Leinster: K Nolan (Dublin) for Bolton (13); B Murphy (Carlow) for Macauley (49); K Lillis (Laois) for Conway (h-t); J Doyle (Kildare) for McManamon (53); S McCormack (Longford) for Glynn (55).

Referee: Martin Higgins (Fermanagh).

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