Hayes sparks Connacht into life as O'Kane rues dismissal
INTER-PRO HURLING SEMI-FINAL
Connacht 3-19 Ulster 1-15
Ulster manager Gregory O'Kane said referees should make every effort to keep players on the pitch after midfielder Neil McManus was sent off in Ballinasloe yesterday.
Referee Tony Carroll twice flashed the yellow card at McManus in the closing minutes of the first half, the second arriving after consulting his umpires following a goalmouth fracas.
"It is very disappointing to lose a man especially in the first half. Are umpires going to run these games or what?" said O'Kane. "This is his first game out in the season and we can't always be looking to send players off. We have to try and keep them on the pitch. The lad didn't do a lot wrong. It changed the course of the game but I am very proud of the players. They played a great second half down to 14 men."
Lining out with 15 Galway men from the start, Anthony Cunningham's side were expected to click immediately, but instead it was the Ulster men that looked the more cohesive outfit. And it wasn't until Eanna Ryan's goal six minutes from time that Connacht could breathe easily.
They pulled away in the closing moments, with the returning Niall Healy and Iarla Tannian hitting fine scores, but the Connacht and Galway management team know they will need a huge improvement against Dublin in the Allianz National League next weekend.
Despite not scoring all afternoon, Damien Hayes was the catalyst to everything good that Connacht did and he was involved in the creation of their first three points.
And in the 24th minute he was pivotal in the move that sent Tannian through for a goal which drew Connacht level.
McManus was booked for pulling on a high ball over Niall Donoghue's hand in the 29th minute and he was shown the yellow card again after becoming entangled with Hayes and Donal Fox. With seven minutes remaining, Ulster's 14 men pulled to within a goal of their hosts when full-back Cormac Donnelly crashed a penalty past Jamie Ryan.
At that stage it looked as if Connacht were in danger, but a minute later Ryan ran onto a lovely flick through from Tannian and found the net to halt Ulster's comeback.
SCORERS -- Connacht: N Burke 0-8 (4f), I Tannian 1-4, E Ryan 1-3, D Glennon 1-0, J Coen, N Healy (1f) 0-2 each.
Ulster: K Stewart 0-6 (6f), N McManus 0-5 (4f), C Donnelly 1-0 (pen), M Armstrong 0-2, N McAuley, C Carville 0-1 each.
Connacht (Galway unless stated) -- J Ryan; P Shiel, N Donoghue, G O'Halloran; T Og Regan, F Moore, B Flaherty; J Grealish, D Fox; B Burke, N Burke, E Ryan; D Hayes, J Coen, I Tannian. Subs: B Daly for Fox (h-t), D Glennon for Grealish (46), N Healy for N Burke (56), P Gordon for Flaherty (58), K Raymond (Sligo) for Coen (74).
Ulster -- G Clarke (Down); A Graffin (Antrim), C Donnelly (Antrim), S Ennis (Down); N McAuley (Antrim), L Hinphey (Derry), S McCrory (Antrim); C Woods (Down), N McManus (Antrim); M Herron (Antrim), K McGarry (Down), M Armstrong (Antrim); P McCloskey (Derry), K Stewart (Antrim), C Carville (Armagh). Subs: J Coyle for McGarry (h-t), R Gaffney for McCloskey (43), M Ennis for S Ennis (78).
REF -- T Carroll (Offaly)