Sport Hurling

Thursday 22 February 2018

Dooley delight as Cats factor proves vital

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE big clue as to the likely winners was contained in the team-sheet as Leinster had no fewer than 11 Kilkenny men on their starting line-up -- including the entire defence and midfield -- and added another in the second half.

It was a line-up that looked too formidable for Munster, especially since the Kilkenny men were playing on home ground at Nowlan Park.

And so it proved, but only after Leinster withstood a gutsy second- half revival by Munster who cut an interval deficit of nine points down to one in the 62nd minute.

Munster had outscored their rivals by 1-7 to 0-2 in 27 minutes and appeared to have built up a winning momentum, but it didn't last and Leinster finished strongly, adding four points.

Having worked so hard to pare back the deficit, it was hugely disappointing for Munster who were left to rue a poor first half in which Leinster's opportunism set the agenda.

Munster were hit for goals in the second, 20th and 31st minutes, all three which might have been avoided. Michael Fennelly scored the first after bounding through the centre in a trademark run before angling the ball decisively past Donal Og Cusack.

Quite why nobody picked him up remained something of a mystery as it wasn't exactly the first time in his career that an energetic surge set him up for a goal chance.

Leinster's second goal, scored by Joe Bergin, came after a Cusack puck-out was intercepted by Richie Hogan, while the third was Munster's punishment for sloppy defending during which they conceded a penalty which Richie Power fired to the net.


Leading by 3-8 to 0-8 at the interval, it looked as if Leinster would coast into the final but Munster revived their challenge when John Conlon finished off a smart move with a goal in 38th minute.

Patrick Horgan, 'Brick' Walsh and Brendan Maher had been involved in the classy build-up, which was one of the highlights of what was a very entertaining encounter.

Walsh, who has spent most of his inter-county career at midfield and centre-back, lined out at centre-forward but it's a lead that new Waterford manager Michael Ryan is unlikely to follow as 'Brick' never really imposed himself in the manner associated with his defensive performances.

Munster's best forwards were John Conlon, who scored 1-3, and Patrick Horgan who scored 0-3, while John Gardiner's long-range strikes from placed balls also yielded 0-3.

Richie Power was Leinster's top scorer on 1-5 (1-3 from placed balls) while Shane Dooley (0-4) was their top scorer from open play.

Richie Hogan had a productive first half before being replaced at half-time, while Joe Bergin also showed enterprise in the opening period as Leinster applied pressure from all angles.

It was all very different for much of the second half. Conlon's goal reignited Munster's challenge and with their full-back line of Tom Condon, Paul Curran and Michael Cahill tightening the defensive bolts at the other end, Leinster's strike-rate decreased alarmingly.

Now it was the turn of the Leinster defence to have their resolve tested as the initiative swung very much Munster's way.

A string of points left Munster just one behind (3-10 to 1-15) after 62 minutes, but they managed only one more score while Leinster shot four points. Munster had a last-minute chance to pare the deficit back to a goal, but Pauric Mahony's drive from a free was saved.

Leinster's first-half enterprise, followed by Munster's courageous recovery, combined to make it a most enjoyable game for a crowd of 1,500.

Given the indifference with which the GAA has treated the inter-provincials, it was a reasonable turn-out. And both managers, Joe Dooley and Liam Sheedy, were adamant that with greater marketing and promotion, interest levels would increase substantially. "The people who were here today saw the effort and commitment the players put in. Every player we asked was mad keen to play which shows they value this competition," said Dooley.

"It's a great pity this game wasn't live on TV so that everyone could see for themselves just how committed the players were."

Sheedy concurred and suggested that the GAA should consider playing the inter-provincial hurling and football finals with the club finals as part of a St Patrick's weekend promotion.

Obviously it won't happen this year, but Sheedy believes it would prove popular with the public over the longer term. Whatever, the timing, he is convinced the interprovincials should be retained.

"Lads have heavy schedules at this time of year, but they were still very keen to be involved. You could see just how much playing for their provinces meant to both sets of players," he said.

Dooley believes that the inter-pros should be given a fixed date on the calendar and promoted vigorously.

"It's great for lads to get a chance to play with fellas from other counties. Why not promote it the same as the International Rules?


"I have no doubt that if the marketing went in, the public would respond. Today's game was a great spectacle but then we had many of the top players in the country in action," he said.

It was a unique experience for Dooley who got a taste of what it's like for Brian Cody as Kilkenny manager.

"They're a great bunch to be involved with. The other lads from around the provinces will have enjoyed playing with the Kilkenny boys too," he said.

As for Sheedy, he was left regretting Munster's sloppy first half.

"We let them get a run on us and they made it count. We got it right back to one point in the second half but just couldn't keep it going. Still, it was a fine effort and a great experience for all concerned," he said.

Scorers -- Leinster: R Power 1-5 (1-0 pen, 3f), S Dooley 0-5 (1f), J Bergin 1-1, M Fennelly 1-0, B Hogan, E Larkin, C Fennelly 0-1 each. Munster: J Conlon 1-3, P Horgan, J Gardiner (2f, 1 '65), 0-3 each, P Mahony 0-2f, P Cronin, S McGrath, E Kelly (f), P Donnellan, M Walsh 0-1 each.

Leinster -- (Kilkenny unless stated) G Maguire (Dublin); P Murphy, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, JJ Delaney; M Fennelly, M Rice; R O'Dwyer (Dublin), R Power, E Larkin; S Dooley (Offaly), J Bergin (Offaly), R Hogan. Subs: W Hyland (Laois) for R Hogan (h-t), D Stamp (Wexford) for B Hogan (h-t), C Fennelly for O'Dwyer (55), R Hanniffy (Offaly) for Bergin (61), R Jacob (Wexford) for Rice (70).

Munster -- D Og Cusack (Cork); M Cahill (Tipperary), P Curran (Tipperary), T Condon (Limerick); J Gardiner (Cork), P Maher (Tipperary), P Donnellan (Clare); S O'Sullivan (Waterford), S McGrath (Tipperary); P Cronin (Cork), M Walsh (Waterford), B Maher (Tipperary); J Conlon (Clare), E Kelly (Tipperary), P Horgan (Cork). Subs: D O'Grady (Limerick) for McGrath (39), S Molumphy (Waterford) for Cronin (46), G Ryan (Tipperary) for Kelly (55), P Mahony (Waterford) for Gardiner (58), K Moran (Waterford) for Donnellan (67).

REF -- A Kelly (Galway)

Irish Independent

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