Missing fans lose out as Brogan's fist floors Connacht
The footballers of Leinster and Connacht did their utmost to inject life into this competition by serving up an entertaining clash at Pearse Park in Longford.
Both sides picked off some excellent scores in a game where there were decent passages of open play and little of the cynical holding and dragging which blights so many matches.
But for all the quality served up and the pre-match efforts to build up the game, a crowd of only about 300-400 bothered to turn up.
Leinster trained together on Saturday, with some of the players conducting coaching courses for young players.
"The players' appetite for this is huge – there is no question about their enthusiasm," said Leinster manager Pat Gilroy.
He said that Kildare players had not, in fact, boycotted the competition and were not available for genuine reasons, with 35-year old Johnny Doyle forced to rest and a wedding impacting on others.
"None of the five we spoke to were available – for different reasons – over these two weekends. The reasons were bona fide," added the former Dublin boss.
Gilroy hopes that there will be a big attendance for next Sunday's final and he promised that fans who make the effort will be rewarded.
"That was great entertainment and I would expect a good crowd next Sunday, especially as it is for charity.
"It was a decent game and it was very competitive.
"We have a few complications with regard to next Sunday over who is available, but we will see how that works out," he added.
Connacht had a large number of players unavailable and availed of the offer of three London players – Matt Gottsche and Eoin O'Neill from Galway, along with Sligo's Padraig McGoldrick – to play for their province.
Connacht manager John Tobin said the competition should be played over a weekend in December, adding that players and many others were anxious that this competition continues.
"I think it was a magnificent game. There were some great scores in it and the players enjoy playing in this competition.
"I feel the competition should be played on the long weekend in December around the 8th, and played in Dublin, with the proceeds going to charity," said Tobin.
Connacht, who have not won this competition since 1969, looked set to advance when they led by five points with less than eight minutes remaining.
But then Bernard Brogan really took over and he landed four points in a haul of 0-9 to steer Leinster into the final.
Connacht led by 0-14 to 1-8 at half-time, having played with the wind, but a scrambled Joe Sheridan goal after six minutes gave Leinster a foundation.
Connacht's Michael Conroy, who hit four points, and Leinster's Adrian Flynn were the dominant figures in the opening half.
The sides hit three points each in the third quarter before Leinster hauled Connacht in with points from Brian O'Connor, Sean McCormack and Paddy Keenan to level the game at 1-14 to 0-17 after 55 minutes.
Michael Darragh Macauley pushed Leinster ahead, but then Connacht hit back with an equaliser from Mark Breheny, before Paul Conroy finished to the net after 'keeper Stephen Cluxton (below) failed to deal with a high delivery from Seamus O'Shea.
Paul Conroy sent another goal chance flying over the bar and Lee Keegan also pointed for Connacht to lead by 1-20 to 1-15 and they should have closed the game out.
But Sean McCormack led the Leinster revival when he pointed from the right after 62 minutes. Brogan then flashed over a couple of points before Flynn left just one between them when his effort went just over the bar five minutes from time.
Brogan's class was apparent in the closing moments when he pointed a free from the right and then he pounced for the winner when he latched on to a delivery from McCormack to get his fist to the bouncing ball and send it soaring over the bar.
SCORERS–Leinster: B Brogan 0-9 (5f), J Sheridan 1-0, A Flynn 0-3, J Heslin, S McCormack, B O'Connor 0-2 each, R Barry, MD Macauley, P Keenan 0-1 each. Connacht: P Conroy 1-5, (0-1 '45'), E Mulligan 0-6 (4f), M Conroy 0-4, M Breheny 0-3 (2f), M Martin , L Keegan 0-1 each.
Leinster – S Cluxton; K Lillis, G Molloy, B Malone; M Quinn, G Brennan, A Flynn; MD Macauley , J Heslin; B O'Connor, R Barry, C O'Sullivan; D Dolan, J Sheridan, B Brogan. Subs: S McCormack for Dolan (17), P Keenan for Quinn (30), B Kavanagh for Brennan (52), P Flynn for Sheridan (54), J Stafford for O'Connor (60).
Connacht – D Clarke; G Cafferkey, F Hanley, J Moore; L Keegan, N Daly, G O'Donnell; J Gibbons, S O'Shea; M Breheny, E Mulligan, M Martin; J Doherty, P Conroy, M Conroy. Subs: M Gottsche for Martin (30), P Brennan for Gottsche (63).
REF–D O'Mahony (Tipperary).