Ulster and Leinster tie thriller as Munster survive Connacht scare

Ulster and Leinster played out a thrilling tie on the opening day of the Interprovincial Championship at Lee Valley yesterday while defending champions Munster survived a few anxious moments in mid-afternoon to emerge 7 ½-3 ½ winners over Connacht.

Ulster and Leinster tie thriller as Munster survive Connacht scare

The splendid Christy O’Connor Junior-designed course came in for considerable praise from all concerned and benefited even more from the frequent heavy showers that took some of the sting out of the parched fairways and firm greens.

It certainly provided the ideal setting for some tremendous matches, which augur well for today’s second session which sees Munster lead the way against Leinster followed by Ulster and Connacht.

The Ulster-Leinster clash was a real thriller. The Aidan Doran-skippered Ulster looked nicely poised to take a 3-1 foursomes lead but had to accept a share of the spoils when Nicky Grant and Dermot McElroy, two up with three to play, were hit by a hat-trick of birdies by Stuart Grehan and Gavin Moynihan.

It was nip and tuck throughout the eight afternoon singles, which were highlighted by an albatross by Paul Dunne at the long 15th on his way to beating Dermot McElroy 3 and 2. Once again, things were going ever so slightly in Ulster’s favour as the final match reached the 17th tee.

With the teams still locked in a tie, Grant stood one up on Grehan only to drive into the trees to lose the hole and a half at the 18th meant they had to settle for a 5 ½-5 ½ share of the spoils.

Munster did well to lead 3-1 after the foursomes, given they were well down in two matches at a relatively early stage. But the Waterford pair of Kevin Phelan and Alan Thomas fought back to win on the 17th against Alan Gleeson and Gary McDermott while Geoff Lenehan and Pat Murray did likewise against Barry Anderson and Steffan O’Hara.

However, Gary Hurley and Kieran Lynch were always struggling against Stephen Healy and Declan Loftus, but Gary O’Flaherty and Niall Gorey were similarly in control against Kelan McDonagh and Stephen Brady, both matches ending on the 15th green.

It continued to be a difficult day for the highly promising Hurley as he came up against an in-form Anderson who coasted home at the 13th and when McDermott got home at the 17th in the top single against Lenehan, Connacht captain Jimmy Joyce was quietly entertaining hope that his side might claim the five points they needed to redress the foursomes imbalance.

This was very much the case as Healy and O’Hara had taken an early advantage in their matches against Phelan and Thomas. The butterflies were beginning to swirl around inside Joyce’s Munster counterpart Phil Cooney but were becalmed when Thomas rallied to come through comfortably against O’Hara while Phelan duly provided the fifth of the six points required for victory at the expense of Healy.

The Munster win was completed when Murray and O’Flaherty disposed of McDonagh and Gleeson and Gorey halved with Loftus.

Leinster and Ulster had their anticipated wins over Connacht and Munster in the Boys Interpros.

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