Connacht’s taste for hard work pays off as 45-year wait ends

Connacht 2-19 Ulster 1-07
Connacht again showed yesterday that while the inter-provincial competitions continue to have an uncertain future, the players have no problem getting motivated and delivering big performances.

A crowd of only about 600 turned up at Tuam Stadium and while there was a lot of open football, there was also an edge to proceedings and neither side pulled out of the exchanges.

In the end, the groundwork done by Connacht against the wind in the opening half, when they restricted Ulster to a lead of two points, proved decisive and they cut loose in the second half to outscore the champions by 2-13 to 0-2.

Connacht manager John Tobin said they were delighted to finally bridge a 45-year gap since their last win and believes the competition has to be saved as players are keen to participate every year.

“There are three national competitions up for grabs at the beginning of every year, you have the National League and the championship and you have the Railway Cup and everyone wants to win those,” said Tobin.

The former Galway star said they made a big effort to win the competition for the first time since 1969.

“It was a big challenge and it was a long time since we won, 45 years is a long time so the lads are thrilled with it. This really is a player tournament, the quality of football was outstanding again from both teams.

“I think that playing it at this particular time is very hard on players and is very hard on inter-county managements. League points are precious at this time of the year, Sigerson was also on so it happens to coincide with a very short break in the league and the Sigerson.”

Joe Kernan has been a strong supporter of the competition as a player and manager and the Armagh man said he believes new GAA president-elect Aogán Ó Fearghail will promote the competition.

“We’ll start again next year and hopefully we’ll get back, we have a president in now, Aogán Ó Fearghail, an Ulster man who loves the competition and I hope the GAA give it its proper chance to succeed.”

He had few complaints about the outcome in Tuam.

“We were played out of it all over the park and that’s the beauty of the game. If you turn up and perform it’s great and if you don’t you will lose out, and in fairness Connacht were hungrier and more determined, used the ball better in the conditions and were worthy, worthy winners.”

Connacht worked hard against the wind in the opening half and led by 0-4 to 0-2 in the second quarter before Ulster rallied and led by 1-5 to 0-6 when Colm Cavanagh finished to the net after Michael Murphy was denied by Robbie Hennelly.

Goalkeeper Hennelly kicked 0-3, his counterpart Niall Morgan also scored, but the key score was a goal from Mayo’s Michael Conroy three minutes after the restart.

Connacht used the wind well and outscored Ulster by 2-13 to 0-2 in the second half with Sligo’s David Kelly fisting home a cross six minutes from time to secure the silverware at the end of an enjoyable contest.

Scorers for Connacht: M Conroy and D Kelly 1-1 each, R Hennelly (2f, 1 45), C Cregg and S Armstrong 0-3 each, K McLoughlin (1f), K Higgins 0-2 each, N Daly, A O’Shea, E Mulligan, P Conroy 0-1 each.

Scorers for Ulster: C Cavanagh 1-0, C McManus 0-3f, N Morgan, S Cavanagh (f), M Murphy (f) and M Poland 0-1 each.

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 (bc, 44), D Gibney (Cavan) for Donnelly (46), K McKernan (Down) for Cavanagh (52).

Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).


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