Gemma Begley stars as Ulster ladies seal three-in-a-row
Ulster 2-8 Connacht 2-7
GEMMA Begley played a captain's part as Ulster claimed a third successive MMI Interprovincial ladies football crown at Kinnegad.
Tyrone star Begley scored 2-3 (including 2-1 from play) as Paula Cunningham's Ulster repeated last year's final victory over Connacht.
Not even a personal haul of 1-7 from Mayo ace Cora Staunton could prevent Connacht from losing as their long wait for a first interpro crown since 2000 continues for another year.
Despite playing with the breeze, Ulster were just a point ahead at half-time, 1-5 to 2-1.
Connacht got their noses in front with the game's opening score in the seventh minute – a goal from Leitrim's Aine Tighe after Grace Kelly's shot hit the crossbar.
But Ulster settled and four points without reply, including a brace from Monaghan's Caoimhe Mohan, pushed the champions in front. Connacht responded with a second goal, with Staunton finishing from close range after her initial effort was saved.
In the 19th minute, Begley lashed the ball into an empty net for Ulster's second goal in a see-saw opening half.
Staunton's free and a point from Monaghan's Cora Courtney completed the first-half scoring and it was Begley who got the ball rolling in the second half with a point. Two frees from Staunton levelled it, but Ulster regained the advantage when Therese McNally scored her second point and Begley netted again.
Staunton hit back for Connacht with two points, including a free, before Begley's free ensured a three-point buffer for Ulster, 2-8 to 2-5.
Staunton got late brace of points for Connacht, but Ulster held firm.
Meanwhile, Munster claimed the Shield trophy by defeating Leinster by 4-0 to 2-1 in a penalty shootout after the sides finished level, Leinster 1-13 and Munster 4-6.
Ulster themselves needed a penalty shootout to get through to the interprovincial final. Connacht, Ulster and Munster finished level on points after the group phase, with Connacht drawn out of the hat to advance straight to the final.
Ulster held their nerve to see off Munster and book a place in the final.
There was some consolation for Munster with victory in the Shield and Cork's Angela Walsh secured the player of the tournament award.
Scorers – Ulster: G Begley 2-3 (2fs), C Mohan, T McNally 0-2 each, C Courtney 0-1. Connacht: C Staunton 1-7 (5fs), A Tighe 1-0.