Sunday 17 December 2017

Connacht edge past Leinster in Inter Provincial football semi-final

Declan Byrne of Leinster in action against Enda Smith of Connacht during the GAA Interprovincial Football Championship Semi-Final between Connacht and Leinster at Parnell Park in Dublin. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Declan Byrne of Leinster in action against Enda Smith of Connacht during the GAA Interprovincial Football Championship Semi-Final between Connacht and Leinster at Parnell Park in Dublin. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Niall Scully

THEY were stoking of the fires of the old Railway Cup in Parnell Park last night.

CONNACHT ….2-17 LEINSTER…..1-18

In his programme notes, the GAA President, Aogán Ó Fearghail, wrote about the long history of the competition. Stretching all the way back to 1905.

The heydays have long gone of the big crowds flocking to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.

There was a small audience in Donnycarney for this football semi-final, mostly huddled in the stand. And a few hardy souls on the far terrace.

But those that came got decent value. There was much to admire. Little pockets of skill everywhere. And plenty of conviction too.

 And, although it didn’t look like it would from a long way out, the hour delivered an exciting last paragraph.

The lights came on early and there was a minutes silence for Ulster Council CEO, Danny Murphy.

It didn’t take long for Connacht to begin to boil the kettle. Three points in the bag inside the opening two minutes.

All scored at the church end. Leinster were saying their prayers. It seemed it was going to be a long day’s night.

Those three points from play were very well taken from Niall Murphy, Danny Cummins and Damien Comer.

It took a while for Leinster to find their voice. Full-forward, John Heslin, was doing his best.

He made the most of any post that came his way. He scored two first half gems – one off the left boot and the other off the right.

But Leinster were to concede a 22nd minute goal to Ciaran Murtagh, struck to the sack from close in and with authority.

At the tea, it was Connacht in charge, 1-10 to 0-7. Just before the break, a delicious pick-up from Gary O’Donnell led to another point from Cummins.

Yet Leinster showed plenty of resolve in the second half as the duel found that extra sparkle.

And Kieran Martin’s 41st minute goal left Leinster just trailing by a point.

And for the only time in the debate they took the lead through Heslin with five minutes left.

The last chapter also saw the sides level twice before Niall Murphy’s 59th minute goal proved crucial for Connacht.

Just before that, Leinster gave within inches of a goal themselves when James Dolan’s strike came back off the timber.

Less passengers on the Railway these days, but, on this evidence, the players are still happy to get the ticket.

SCORERS – Connacht:  N Murphy 1-3, J Doherty 0-6 (4f), C Murtagh 1-1, D Cummins 0-3, N Daly, E Smith, F Cregg, D Comer 0-1 each. Leinster: J Heslin 0-10 (6f), K Martin 1-1, S O’Rourke, J O’Loughlin, P Sharry, J McGrath, D Foley, J Byrne, D Byrne 0-1 each.

CONNACHT: D Clarke; K McDonnell, N McInerney, D Wynne; N Daly, G O’Donnell, J Heaney; E Smith, K Higgins; F Cregg, C Murtagh, J Doherty; N Murphy, D Comer, D Cummins. Subs used: S Mullooly, C O’Shea,  E Mulligan, D Murtagh, J McManus,  A Varley.

LEINSTER: A Mulhall; D Daly, K Meaney, P Rath; J Dolan, J Small, D Healy; J O’Loughlin, D Foley; K Martin, P Sharry, J McGrath; N Flynn, J Heslin, N Dunne. Subs used: J Byrne, G Guilfoyle, D St Ledger, D Byrne, P Cunningham, B Malone, S O’Rourke, P Collum.     

REF: N Money (Cavan)

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