Connacht 0-16 Leinster 1-23
Joe Dooley pleaded for better promotion of the Interprovincial championships after guiding Leinster to a 29th hurling title.
Just 150 were on hand at Croke Park to watch them beat Connacht for the third time in the last four finals.
Eoin Larkin shot 12 points and led the Kilkenny contingent who contributed all but 1-3 of their province’s tally.
It was Dooley’s second win in three years as manager, though the competition at large remains in limbo.
There was no promotion for this year’s games and many believe they should be scrapped despite almost 90 years of tradition.
Dooley said: “There was a good few in the stands for a finish up because they were arriving for the football game (between Dublin and Cork). But there weren’t too many there at the start. It needs to be promoted better. It needs to be possibly played as a curtain raiser for the All-Ireland club final, on St Patrick’s Day. Perhaps put the hurling final on with club hurling final.”
Leinster’s second-half recovery underlined their enthusiasm in the competition.
They led 0-11 to 0-9 at half-time but conceded momentum to a resurgent Connacht.
Six points in a row after the restart, however, and a 53rd minute Ryan O’Dwyer goal all-but secured Leinster’s victory.
Colin Fennelly, fresh from his 3-5 burst against Tipperary, came alive with three points while sub and Cats colleague Lester Ryan hit the same tally.
Dooley continued: “We had a bit of talking to do at half-time. We brought Colin Fennelly out to centre-forward and we brought in TJ Reid and Lester Ryan from the bench. Those three lads made a difference but I thought that everyone played well. Richie Hogan was excellent, Lee Chin... a lot of those guys haven’t hurled at Croke Park that often. Wexford haven’t played there since 2007 or 2008, Offaly have only hurled there twice in the last seven or eight years. So it meant a lot to them and it gave them an extra incentive to hurl well.”
Connacht had players from Sligo, Roscommon and Mayo on the bench, though they weren’t used, meaning it was essentially Galway lining out.
Conor Cooney shot eight points while Niall Healy did his best to reel in Leinster with two second-half scores.
They were without their Portumna contingent who have been resting ahead of their AIB All-Ireland club final against Mount Leinster Rangers.
The only downside to Leinster’s win was Andrew Shore’s ankle injury. The Wexford man was taken to hospital for scans while Offaly’s Dan Currams needed stitches in a head wound.
Scorers for Leinster: E Larkin (0-12, five frees, 4 65); R O’Dwyer (1-0); C Fennelly and L Ryan (0-3 each); C Keaney (0-2); R Hogan, W Walsh and D Currams (0-1 each).
Scorers for Connacht: C Cooney (0-8, four frees); J Flynn, R Cummins and N Healy (0-2 each); P Brehony and P Landers (0-1 each).
LEINSTER: G Maguire (Dublin); P Murphy (Kilkenny), P Kelly (Dublin), A Shore (Wexford); T Walsh (Kilkenny), L Rushe (Dublin), L Chin (Wexford); M Carton (Dublin), R Hogan (Kilkenny); W Walsh (Kilkenny), R O’Dwyer (Dublin), C Keaney (Dublin); C Fennelly (Kilkenny), E Larkin (Kilkenny), D Currams (Offaly).
Subs: M Hanlon (Wexford) for Shore (18) TJ Reid for W Walsh (19-22) L Ryan (Kilkenny) for Carton (h/t), Reid for W Walsh (h/t), J Guiney (Wexford) for Currams (41-50), J Bergin (Offaly) for Currams (50), J McCaffrey (Dublin) for O’Dwyer (68).
CONNACHT (ALL GALWAY): J Skehill; F Moore, S Kavanagh, D Collins; A Harte, I Tannian, D Burke; D Burke, P Brehony; J Coen, C Cooney, J Flynn; R Cummins, N Healy, C Mannion.
Subs: K Hynes for Tannian (44), D Dolan for Cummins (45), B Flaherty for Harte (56), P Landers for Flynn (62), G McInerney for Coen (69).
Referee: E Hassan (Derry).
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