Sunday 18 August 2019

Second-half blitz seals inter-provincial title for Ulster

Ulster 2-16 Connacht 3-10

Ulster players, from left, Stefan Campbell, Charlie Vernon and Tony Kiernan celebrate
Ulster players, from left, Stefan Campbell, Charlie Vernon and Tony Kiernan celebrate

DECLAN ROONEY

Charlie Vernon led a rampant second-half from Ulster as Pete McGrath’s side recovered from the concession of three first-half goals to dethrone champions Connacht and claim their first inter-provincial football title since 2013.

In front of an estimated 500 people at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada, two goals from Ciaran Murtagh and a third from Damien Comer had Connacht in control, but John Tobin’s men only added four points to their tally after the restart as the succumbed to the rampant Ulster men.

This was a highly entertaining affair, but it was devoid of the usual bite that is the trait of inter-county football. Early on Ulster allowed Connacht to pick their way through them

and Murtagh’s two goals came that way thanks to smart play from Sligo’s Niall Murphy, but after that the route to goal was closed off.

And it had all started so well for the home side. Points from Danny Cummins and Ciaran Murtagh got them off to a great start, before Peter Harte got Ulster on the board with a well struck free.

Murtagh’s two goals in the space of three minutes had Connacht 2-3 to 0-3 ahead, and a six-point cushion at this time of the year looked to be considerable. But Stefan Campbell and Tomás Corrigan points kept their tally increasing, while their brilliant wing-back Breen rattled the net after 18 minutes to trim the lead to three points.

Comer did clean up a goalmouth scramble with Connacht’s third goal just before the break, but Lynn, Corrigan and Harte ensured that just two points separated the teams at the break, 3-6 to 1-10.

Chrissy McKaigue took time out of his club hurling and football calendar with Slaughtneil to line out for Ulster and he appeared as a second-half sub, but 70 seconds later he was back on the sidelines after he picked up a black card. Coincidentally, he was replaced by dual club mate Brendan Rogers.

Enda Smith of Connacht in action against Niall Sludden of Ulster
Enda Smith of Connacht in action against Niall Sludden of Ulster

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And from there Ulster dominated entirely, despite points from Murtagh and Enda Smith that gave their side a three-point lead early in the half.

But Vernon’s superb individual goal after 40 minutes was the key score, and when he followed it up with a point a minute later, Ulster suddenly led by two points.

And they didn’t let up after they took the lead for the first time as points from Harte, Breen and Lynn saw them canter home.

Scorers – Ulster: P Harte 0-5 (4f), A Breen 1-2, T Corrigan 0-4 (2f), C Vernon 1-1, E Lynn 0-3, S Campbell 0-1

Connacht: C Murtagh 2-3, D Comer 1-1, J Doherty 0-2 (2f), E Smith 0-1, D Cummins 0-1, E Mulligan 0-1 (1f), P Conroy 0-1.

ULSTER: N Morgan (Tyrone); M Jones (Fermanagh), K Clare (Cavan), D O’Hagan (Down); T McCann (Tyrone), C Moynagh (Cavan), A Breen (Fermanagh); E Donnelly (Fermanagh), C Vernon (Armagh); K Niblock (Antrim), P Harte (Tyrone), E Lynn (Derry); N Sludden (Tyrone), S Campbell (Armagh), T Corrigan (Fermanagh).

Subs: R Johnston (Down) for Niblock (28), C McKaigue (Derry) for Moynagh (h-t), B Rogers (Derry) for McKaigue (32), D McCusker (Fermanagh) for Clarke (38), M Donnelly (Tyrone) for Campbell (44), T Kernan (Armagh) for Vernon (55), N McKeever for Lynn (58).

CONNACHT: D Clarke (Mayo); K McDonnell (Sligo), J Duane (Galway), D Wynne (Galway); N Daly (Roscommon), G O’Donnell (Galway), J Heaney (Galway); E Smith (Roscommon), K Higgins (Roscommon); F Cregg (Roscommon), D Cummins (Galway), C Murtagh (Roscommon); N Murphy (Sligo), D Comer (Galway), J Doherty (Mayo).

Subs: P Conroy (Galway) for Cummins (10), D Wrynn (Leitrim) for Higgins (44), G Bradshaw for Doherty (49), E Mulligan (Leitrim) for Conroy (51), McManus (Roscommon) for McDonnell (53), D Murtagh (Roscommon) for Murphy (57), C O’Shea for Smith (59).

Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).

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