Connacht haven’t won the old Railway Cup since 1969, but on the back of a display laced with sublime scoring from both sides, they’ll be hard beaten in next weekend’s final.
Munster boss Ger O’Sullivan said it was a pity the occasion was not covered by TV to record one of the finest games in memory, including an unforgettable goal for Cork’s Brian Hurley before the break.
But even a 2-2 haul from the Cork full-forward was not the stand-out display as Roscommon’s Cathal Cregg landed 1-7 and was nigh on impossible to mark.
“We saw the Connacht panel on the paper during the week it was very, very strong, some very, very good players with different counties so we were expecting a tight game,” said O’Sullivan.
“But I think it’s a pity that even cameras don’t come to record this to show it on the dreary Christmas nights, and let people see what kind of football is being played. We’ve had the same experience last year against Ulster and the previous year against Ulster
“I would always be a small bit critical of the timing of it, I think it’s a competition that should be played later in the year,” O’Sullivan said.
In total 5-35 was scored in perfect conditions — all but five of those scores came from play — while the finest footballers in Munster and Connacht displayed their talents when freed from the constraints of inter-county football.
Munster — made entirely of Cork and Kerry players — had an excellent first half-hour and at one stage led by 1-8 to 0-4, thanks to Hurley’s third-minute goal.
But after Sligo’s David Kelly hit a bullet to the net in the 30th minute the game turned on its head, and only Hurley’s pile-driver from distance to the top corner saw Munster lead by 2-9 to 1-9 at the break.
A lightning start to the second half from Connacht saw Aidan O’Shea score a goal as Connacht took the lead for the first time in the 37th minute, while Cregg sealed the win when he palmed Kelly’s pass past Brendan Kealy in the final quarter.
Connacht manager John Tobin was delighted to see his side reach the final but lamented the poor support.
“When you think of the quality of the players, the best players are playing there and it’s just unfortunate that people don’t attach the importance that it deserves to it really,” said Tobin.
Scorers for Connacht: C Cregg 1-7, P Conroy, E Mulligan (2f) 0-5 each, A O’Shea, D Kelly 1-0 each, M Conroy, E Concannon 0-1 each.
Scorers for Munster: B Hurley 2-2, D Goulding 0-5 (1f, 1 45), P Kerrigan, D O’Connor (1f) 0-2 each, J Lyne, M Collins, D Walsh, M Geaney, BJ Keane 0-1 each.
CONNACHT: R Hennelly (Mayo); G Reynolds (Leitrim), J Moore (Galway), N Ewing (Sligo); G Bradshaw (Galway), N Daly (Roscommon), K McLoughlin (Mayo); A O’Shea (Mayo), J Gibbons (Mayo); C Cregg (Roscommon), E Mulligan (Leitrim), S Armstrong (Galway); M Conroy (Mayo), P Conroy (Galway), D Kelly (Sligo).
Subs: T Flynn (Galway) for Gibbons (26-34 blood), J Duane (Galway) for Bradshaw (46), E Concannon (Galway) for Armstrong (54), D Cummins (Galway) for Cregg (63), M Breheny (Sligo) for Kelly (66), G Bradshaw for McLoughlin (66).
MUNSTER: B Kealy (Kerry); M Ó Sé (Kerry), M Griffin (Kerry), B McGuire (Kerry); J Lyne (Kerry), A O’Mahony (Kerry), K O’Driscoll (Cork); R Deane (Cork), D Moran (Kerry); P Kerrigan (Cork), M Collins (Cork), D Walsh (Kerry); D Goulding (Cork), D O’Connor (Cork), B Hurley (Cork).
Subs: J O’Rourke (Cork) for Lyne (35), BJ Keane (Kerry) for Deane (45), B O’Driscoll (Cork) for Walsh (53), M Geaney (Kerry) for K O’Driscoll (59), K O’Halloran (Cork) for Kealy (60), J McLoughlin for Ó Sé (63).
Referee: C O’Hagan (Tyrone).