Connacht 2-19 Ulster 1-7
Connacht bridged a 45-year gap when they captured their 10th inter-provincial football title after a decisive victory at Tuam Stadium this afternoon.
Connacht had not won the crown since 1969 but John Tobin’s men laid the foundation for victory with a superb display against the strong wind in the opening half.
Ulster were in trouble when they only managed to lead by two points at the interval having play with the elements.
They trailed by 0-4 to 0-2 just 12 minutes from the break before Ulster, bidding for their fourth title in a row, edged in front with points from Sean Cavanagh and a couple of frees from Conor McManus.
Then Michael Murphy had a goal chance saved by Robbie Hennelly but Colm Cavanagh followed up to finish from close range and that helped Ulster lead by 1-5 to 0-6 at the break.
Ulster goalkeeper Niall Morgan copied his Connacht counterpart Robbie Hennelly — the Mayo net-minder finished with three points — by pointing a free but Connacht used the wind superbly in the second-half.
They got a great boost three minutes after the restart when Garreth Bradshaw set Michael Conroy up and the Mayo corner-forward finished to the back of the net.
Connacht never looked back after that and Ulster only managed another point in the entire game.
Eleven Connacht players found the target but while there was plenty of open football, there was also an edge to proceedings as neither side held back with Ulster losing Ryan McCluskey to a black card.
Keith Higgins went forward to get his second point and further efforts from Sean Armstrong and Kevin McLoughlin saw them lead by 1-12 to 0-6 before Conor McManus got their last point after 55 minutes.
Connacht, though, pushed on with captain Aidan O’Shea leading the way and two points from Cathal Cregg and efforts from O’Shea, Paul Conroy and Conroy saw Connacht open up a 1-17 to 1-7 lead with eight minutes left.
Connacht sealed the issue in the closing stages when David Kelly fisted home a goal as the Sligo player continues to look sharp after missing so much football with an ankle injury last year.
Connacht: M Conroy and D Kelly 1-1 each; R Hennelly 0-3 (0-2f, 0-1 ’45), C Cregg and S Armstrong 0-3 each; K McLoughlin 0-2 (0-1f), K Higgins 0-2; N Daly, A O’Shea, E Mulligan and P Conroy 0-1 each.
Ulster: C Cavanagh 1-0; C McManus 0-3 (0-3f); N Morgan, S Cavanagh and M Murphy (0-1f) each, M Poland 0-1.
Connacht: R Hennelly (Mayo); S McDermott (Roscommon), J Moore (Galway), K Higgins (Mayo); G Bradshaw (Galway), N Daly (Roscommon), K McLoughlin (Mayo); A O’Shea (Mayo), J Gibbons (Mayo); S Armstrong (Galway), E Mulligan (Leitrim), C Cregg (Roscommon); M Conroy (Mayo), P Conroy (Galway), D Kelly (Sligo).
Subs: T Flynn (Galway) for O’Shea 8, O’Shea for Flynn 11; D Cummins (Galway) for Kelly 47, Kelly for Cummins 55; M Brehony (Sligo) for Kelly 65; E Concannon (Galway) for M Conroy 65; G Reynolds (Leitrim) for Bradshaw 65; N Ewing (Sligo) for McDermott 67
Ulster: N Morgan (Tyrone); E McGee (Donegal), N McGee (Donegal), C Clarke (Tyrone); S L McGoldrick (Derry), R McCluskey (Fermanagh), P Harte (Tyrone); S Cavanagh (Tyrone), E Donnelly (Fermanagh); C Mackey (Cavan), M Poland (Down), C Cavanagh (Tyrone); E Keating (Cavan), M Murphy (Donegal), C McManus (Monaghan).
Subs: K Hughes (Monaghan) for Keating 12; M McHugh (Donegal) for MacKey 30; C McKaigue (Derry) for McCluskey (Black) 44; D Gibney (Cavan) for Donnelly 46; K McKernan (Down) for Cavanagh 52.
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).