Pete McGrath’s salvation salvo: Move interpros to All-Ireland weekends

Ulster 2-16 Connacht 3-10: After just 500 supporters showed up to see Ulster win a 32nd interprovincial championship, manager Pete McGrath called for the competition to be moved to the most high profile GAA week of the year.

The Fermanagh boss insisted that the competition needed a boost and said running it off in Dublin on All-Ireland football final weekend could well be the solution.

Goals from Aiden Breen and Charlie Vernon were the crucial scores for Ulster, who had conceded three goals before half-time to a slick Connacht outfit.

But McGrath suggested the GAA could do justice to the traditional event by switching it from an end of year procession to a key part of the GAA calendar.

“It probably is (a bad time of the year). If it could be played some time, we are talking about maybe All-Ireland weekend, there is no club activity on that weekend,” said McGrath.

“You wouldn’t have the All-Ireland finalists needless to say, but you would have all the other top inter-county players. Play the semi-finals in Dublin, Parnell Park on a Friday, final on the Saturday, All-Ireland weekend.

“You have a captivated audience, and players at that time of the year are in great shape. Because if they are out of the inter-county their club season is still going on. You would still have that enthusiasm and that’s a possibility well worth looking at.”

Vernon and Breen were the goal scorers for Ulster, but they also weighed in with some excellent points at key moments. Breen, the Fermanagh wing-back was particularly adept at roaming forward and he ended the hour as Ulster joint top scorer.

But Connacht had started so brightly it looked likely that they would emerge as winners. They benefited from some loose defensive work from Ulster in the eighth and 11th minutes as Niall Murphy sent Ciaran Murtagh in for two goals, while a third major in the minutes approaching half-time ensured that Connacht led by 3-6 to 1-10 at the interval.

“We were very porous in the first ten or 15 minutes. Every time Connacht attacked they opened us up. They were firing over points, they got two goals they could have got another goal,” said McGrath.

“We began to find our groove, found our own combination, found our own levels of energy. Taking people into the match to provide impetus and energy also had an impact.

“As the game wore on we got better. The early start certainly was very worrying given the fact that they were getting through with great ease and they had got three goals.”

But a constant trend right throughout the game was Peter Harte’s consistent free taking and he kept his side in touch, while Derry’s Enda Lynn and Fermanagh’s Tomás Corrigan also weighed in with some fine efforts from play.

In the end Ulster were so strong in the second-half — despite Chrissy McKaigue’s black card 70 seconds after his introduction — it was a surprise that they didn’t win by a bigger margin, but a 32nd inter-pro title was full deserved.

Scorers for Ulster:

P Harte (0-5, 4 frees), A Breen (1-2), T Corrigan (0-4, 2 frees), C Vernon (1-1), E Lynn (0-3), S Campbell (0-1).

Scorers for Connacht:

C Murtagh (2-3), D Comer (1-1), J Doherty (0-2, frees), E Smith, D Cummins, E Mulligan (free), P Conroy (0-1 each).

ULSTER:

N Morgan (Tyrone); M Jones (Fermanagh), K Clarke (Cavan), D O’Hagan (Down); T McCann (Tyrone), C Moynagh (Cavan), A Breen (Fermanagh); E Donnelly (Fermanagh), C Vernon (Armagh); K Niblock (Antrim), P Harte (Tyrone), E Lynn (Derry); N Sludden (Tyrone), S Campbell (Armagh), T Corrigan (Fermanagh).

Subs:

R Johnston (Down) for Niblock (28), C McKaigue (Derry) for Moynagh (h-t), B Rogers (Derry) for McKaigue (32), D McCusker (Fermanagh) for Clarke (38), M Donnelly (Tyrone) for Campbell (44), T Kernan (Armagh) for Vernon (55), N McKeever for Lynn (58).

CONNACHT:

D Clarke (Mayo); K McDonnell (Sligo), J Duane (Galway), D Wynne (Galway); N Daly (Roscommon), G O’Donnell (Galway), J Heaney (Galway); E Smith (Roscommon), K Higgins (Roscommon); F Cregg (Roscommon), D Cummins (Galway), C Murtagh (Roscommon); N Murphy (Sligo), D Comer (Galway), J Doherty (Mayo).

Subs:

P Conroy (Galway) for Cummins (10), D Wrynn (Leitrim) for Higgins (44), G Bradshaw (Galway) for Doherty (49), E Mulligan (Leitrim) for Conroy (51), J McManus (Roscommon) for McDonnell (53), D Murtagh (Roscommon) for Murphy (57), C O’Shea (Mayo) for Smith (59).

Referee:

Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).


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