THE weather gods did the under-fire M Donnelly Interprovincial Championship little favours in Fermoy on Saturday.
The aquatic nature of the day rendered free-flowing play unfeasible while the paltry attendance resulted in a negligible atmosphere, with generous estimates having 200 people huddled into the stand. And then there was the sight afterwards of the showers breaking down in the Munster dressing room, resulting in their players having to skip into the Ulster dressing room to scrub down.
The interest may be there amongst players and management but the finer details need scrutinising, a fact that irked Ulster football boss Joe Kernan.
“We have the players from Munster and Ulster down here today, and we can’t even get the showers working. That’s how bad it is. We’ve gone back a hundred years here. Our boys have shown a big interest in taking part in this. When they show this hunger, why not give it a go? The venue and timing doesn’t suit this competition.
“Put them with the All-Ireland club finals, the two hurling in Thurles and the two football in Croke Park. Give it a go for two years anyway.”
His Munster counterpart Gerard O’Sullivan agreed emphatically.
“I don’t blame the attendance because it was a desperate day. But even if it was a good day, the timing is all wrong. It wasn’t easy for some of our guys who are still playing club championships and it was disrespectful to ask them to play. Fair dues to Martin Donnelly and maybe the next president might be anxious to keep it going.”
Amidst the gloom, the players coped as best they could with plenty endeavour on show in the football semi-final. There wasn’t much between them in a tight struggle and ultimately it seemed fitting that the one piece of genuine sparkle ended up being the difference. In the 41st minute as Munster trailed 0-4 to 0-3, Donncha O’Connor fisted a ball through the centre for Nicholas Murphy. As the ball skidded away from the Carrigaline man, he lent back to smash a volley from 25-yards that flew to the top of the net.
Murphy’s goal was the standout feature in a Munster total that was entirely comprised of Cork scorers. Daniel Goulding grabbed one, with Donncha O’Connor the main man with his 0-4 haul, including a super left-foot effort in the 22nd minute. O’Connor’s point-scoring brought Munster back into contention in the first half after Ulster had enjoyed much of the territory. At the interval it was 0-3 apiece and Munster could also reflect on the spurning of two goal chances by Thomas O’Gorman and Patrick Kelly.
The second half was defined by Murphy’s goal which nudged Munster into a lead they never surrendered. Despite Stephen O’Neill’s introduction and winning plenty ball at midfield, Ulster did not carry enough of a punch up front. Frees from Goulding and O’Connor gave Munster a three-point advantage heading into injury-time, and they survived a late scare when Murphy cleared off his goal line during a frantic scramble.
Manager O’Sullivan was glad to have reversed last season’s final result.
“The thinking during the week was that we wouldn’t have much of a chance as Ulster were pretty strong. But we were quite happy with our panel and I was quietly confident, even if people might not think that some of the counties in Munster produce strong players.”
On the opposite side, Kernan was glad to be back in the bainisteoir bib.
“I really enjoyed the last few weeks, being involved. I’m very disappointed but we just didn’t perform. The one great moment of skill decided the game. There are people on €100,000 a week that can’t do what Nicholas Murphy did for the goal. You never know whether I’ll be back on the line again but I’ve enjoyed this Ulster work over the last few weeks.”
Scorers for Munster: D O’Connor 0-4 (0-3f), N Murphy 1-0, D Goulding 0-1 (0-1f)
Scorers for Ulster: T Freeman 0-2 (0-2f), B Mallon, E Bradley (0-1f), S O’Neill (0-1f) 0-1 each.
MUNSTER: P Fitzgerald (Tipperary); D Duggan (Cork), J McCarthy (Limerick), P Reidy (Kerry); T Ó Sé (Kerry), S Lavin (Limerick), T O’Gorman (Waterford); J Galvin (Limerick), N Murphy (Cork); P Kelly (Cork), D O’Connor (Cork), M O’Gorman (Waterford); D Goulding (Cork), M Cussen (Cork), I Ryan (Limerick).
Subs: A O’Connor (Cork) for Kelly 38, L O’Líonáin (Waterford) for M O’Gorman 55, M Crowley (Limerick) for Ryan 60.
ULSTER: J Devine (Tyrone); F Moriarty (Armagh), V Corey (Monaghan), K Lacey (Donegal); D Harte (Tyrone), C Gormley (Tyrone), A Carr (Down); D Clerkin (Monaghan), R Kavanagh (Donegal); B Dooher (Tyrone), B Mallon (Armagh), D Hughes (Monaghan); S Johnston (Cavan), E Bradley (Derry), T Freeman (Monaghan).
Subs: K Toner (Armagh) for Johnston 35, S O’Neill (Tyrone) for Bradley 47, E Lennon (Monaghan) for Carr 47, R Flanagan (Cavan) for Hughes 49, R Woods (Monaghan) for Kavanagh 54.
Referee: Syl Doyle (Wexford).
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