Connacht were cool, calm and calculated as they dispatched of Ulster to claim their first inter-provincial football crown in 45 years on Sunday.
Tuam provided the windswept backdrop as a crowd of 300 spectators were once again treated to some of the finest footballing talent the country has to offer.
It was a game that was free-flowing from the outset, minus the cynical fouling we have become accustomed to in the crunch of the competitive fixtures. This did offer us the bite however without the tactics and those who were there to witness it will be sure to ally the cries off all involved: ‘promote the inter-provincial championship, it’s imperative for the game’.
The game was relatively low scoring in the first-half despite a raft of opportunities for both teams. Connacht were playing against a strong breeze, yet they managed to keep the scoreboard deadlocked until the 27th minute when a point from Monaghan’s Conor McManus and a goal from Tyrone star Colm Cavanagh five minutes later put daylight between the sides. Nevertheless, the westerners remained belligerent and two points from Mayo goalkeeper, Robbie Hennelly saw Connacht narrowly trail by 1-5 to 0-6 at the break.
Niall Morgan’s point at the start of the second was to be Ulster’s last point for 20 minutes as Connacht ran riot. John Tobin’s charges notched up 1-6 in this period and lead 1-12 to 1-6 before the men from the north could offer anything in return. The Connacht goal had come in the shape of Michael Conroy, the Mayo man showed his pace to sprint through and finish expertly past the hapless ‘keeper.
From then on it was somewhat of a cake-walk for Connacht. Ulster didn’t score after the 55th minute while Connacht added another 1-7 to their total. The final score resembled something more like a hurling fixture but in truth the 15-point margin was nothing more than Connacht deserved.
Scorers – Connacht: M Conroy & D Kelly 1-1 each; R Hennelly 0-3 (2f, 1’45), C Cregg & S Armstrong 0-3 each; K McLoughlin 0-2 (1f), K Higgins 0-2; N Daly, A O’Shea, E Mulligan & P Conroy 0-1 each.
Ulster: C Cavanagh 1-0; C McManus 0-3 (3f); N Morgan, S Cavanagh and M Murphy (1f) & M Poland 0-1 each.
Connacht: R Hennelly (Mayo); S McDermott (Roscommon), J Moore (Galway), K Higgins (Mayo); G Bradshaw (Galway), N Daly (Roscommon), K McLoughlin (Mayo); A O’Shea (Mayo), J Gibbons (Mayo); S Armstrong (Galway), E Mulligan (Leitrim), C Cregg (Roscommon); M Conroy (Mayo), P Conroy (Galway), D Kelly (Sligo).
Subs: T Flynn (Galway) for O’Shea 8; O’Shea for Flynn 11; D Cummins (Galway) for Kelly 47, Kelly for Cummins 55; M Brehony (Sligo) for Kelly 65; E Concannon (Galway) for M Conroy 65; G Reynolds (Leitrim) for Bradshaw 65; N Ewing (Sligo) for McDermott 67.
Ulster: N Morgan (Tyrone); E McGee (Donegal), N McGee (Donegal), C Clarke (Tyrone); S L McGoldrick (Derry), R McCluskey (Fermanagh), P Harte (Tyrone); S Cavanagh (Tyrone), E Donnelly (Fermanagh); C Mackey (Cavan), M Poland (Down), C Cavanagh (Tyrone); E Keating (Cavan), M Murphy (Donegal), C McManus (Monaghan).
Subs: K Hughes (Monaghan) for Keating 12; M McHugh (Donegal) for MacKey 30; C McKaigue (Derry) for McCluskey (Black) 44; D Gibney (Cavan) for Donnelly 46; K McKernan (Down) for Cavanagh 52.