Ulster 3-12 Leinster 0-17
Ulster earned their reward for a continuing genuine commitment to the interprovincial series by winning the title for the third successive season under the management of Joe Kernan.
They were subjected to a very testing challenge by Leinster at a sparsely-attended affair in Croke Park though, and Pat Gilroy’s charges will rue a host of bad wides and the concession of three goals that proved the difference in the end.
Jamie Clarke, who like fellow Crossmaglen star, Aaron Kernan was unavailable for Armagh in their Allianz Football League Division 2 game the previous evening, struck for two of those goals, with the other coming courtesy of Monaghan ace, Conor McManus.
Leinster had been very impressive in their semi-final and started in similar fashion, with former footballer of the year, Bernard Brogan leading the way once again.
The Dublin attacker landed five points, while his Meath counterpart, Joe Sheridan supplied three as Leinster coasted into six-point lead but when Clarke converted effortlessly from a penalty, Ulster were able to go in at the break trailing by just two points (0-9 to 1-4), despite never having gotten to grips with proceedings at all.
It was a different affair completely after the resumption and Donegal’s All-Ireland winning captain, Michael Murphy had a point straight after the resumption.
Then came McManus’ brilliant goal, with Seán Cavanagh finding Clarke with a wonderful kick-pass, and the Armagh man timing his offload to perfection. McManus gave Stephen Cluxton no chance.
Cavanagh drove a shot off the upright soon afterwards as Ulster went for the jugular but Brogan kept Leinster in touch with his eighth point.
Paschal McConnell made a vital save from Michael Darragh Macauley and within minutes, Clarke had struck for his second goal, after good work by Gearóid McKernan. That 53rd minute right-footed finish was absolutely clinical and there was no return for Leinster.
They kept trying hard though, with Gilroy’s former All-Ireland winning charges Brogan, Kevin McManamon and Cluxton (45) registering points but Ulster were buzzing by this stage.
McManus, Clarke and Cavanagh all responded in kind to secure a 31st interprovincial series success for the northern province.
Scorers – Ulster: J Clarke 2-1(1-0 pen) C McManus 1-2; S Cavanagh 0-3(fs); P Harte, A Kernan (f), D Givney, M McHugh, M Penrose (f), M Murphy 0-1 each
Leinster: B Brogan 0-11 (9fs); J Sheridan 0-3; J Heslin, K McMenamon, S Cluxton (45) 0-1 each
Ulster: P McConnell (Tyrone); C McKaigue (Derry), E McGee (Donegal), C McKeever (Armagh); A Kernan (Armagh), D Hughes (Monaghan), P Harte (Tyrone); S Cavanagh (Tyrone), D Givney (Cavan); M McHugh (Donegal), M Penrose (Tyrone), Joe McMahon (Tyrone); J Clarke (Armagh), K Niblock (Antrim), C McManus (Monaghan). Subs: M Murphy (Donegal)for Niblock; G McKieranan (Cavan) for Givney; Justin McMahon (Tyrone) for McKeever; M Poland (Down) for Penrose; K Hughes (Monaghan) for McHugh
Leinster: S Cluxton (Dublin); K Lillis (Laois), G Molloy (Wexford), B Malone (Wexford); M Quinn (Longford), G Brennan (Dublin), A Flynn (Wexford); MD Macauley (Dublin), J Heslin (Westmeath); B Connor (Offaly), R Barry (Wexford), C O’Sullivan (Dublin); B Brogan (Dublin), J Sheridan (Meath), B Murphy (Carlow). Subs: P Keenan (Louth) for Connor; R O’Carroll (Dublin) for Lillis; K McMenamon (Dublin) for Barry; S McCormack (Longford) for Sheridan; J Stafford (Wicklow) for Murphy
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)