Competitive Connacht show clinical touch
Connacht 3-13 Leinster 1-16:Connacht rounded off a weekend to remember for Anthony Cunningham, when a hugely inexperienced side of Galway hurlers overcame a Leinster side laden with frontliners in the M Donnelly hurling interprovincial semi-final at O’Connor Park.
On Saturday, Cunningham watched his club, St Thomas book their place in the All-Ireland final, while his former football charges, St Brigid’s, did likewise.
He was very pleased with the contributions of the many young guns against a Leinster team containing nine Kilkenny players but with his eyes firmly on the National League, will be demanding more when the Tribesmen take on the Cats next week.
“We have a strong panel and we want competition for places, everyone fighting for a starting place” he said.
“We know though that effort and that performance won’t be enough to beat Kilkenny next Sunday and that’s our biggest focus now, looking forward to that in Pearse Stadium.
“Everyone is fighting for a place and we’ll be looking for all those players to be pushing hard to start – it’s not good enough that they’re on the panel, we want them all pushing to start, get on the first 15, and that will put a lot of pressure on the guys who weren’t here today.”
Two half-time substitutes, Damien Hayes and Davy Glennon did play a huge part in this win though, as did Niall Burke, who scored four points from play in registering an overall tally of 0-9.
Only 489 people saw Leinster dominate early on and Joe Dooley’s side led 0-6 to 0-1 at the end of the opening quarter. Shane Dooley notched four points, three of which came from frees. Dooley was very unlucky not to add a goal to that tally as he crashed a shot off the crossbar but Aidan Fogarty reacted smartly to fire over from the rebound.
Burke had Galway’s only score by that stage and the Oranmore-Maree club man had six of his side’s eight points by the interval, when the sides went in level.
He began to exert a significant influence when moved to centre-forward, hitting two wonderful points from play to go with five efforts from placed balls. Cyril Donnellan augmented those efforts with a brace.
Substitute Glennon landed an early score to give Connacht the lead for the first time but Leinster responded with six consecutive points, including two each for Joe Bergin and Richie Hogan.
But they also wasted two gilt-edged goal opportunities , with Dooley having a shot cleared off the line and Danny Sutcliffe firing wide.
By contrast, Connacht were clinical when the chances arose. Goalkeeper Colm Callanan converted a 20m free in the 52nd minute and when Hayes sent a ground stroke to the net after a strong catch and clever hand-pass by Jonathan Glynn six minutes later, the westerners were in front.
Glennon raced through to nab the third five minutes from time although Eoin Larkin’s goal in the 68th minute set up an exciting finale.
CONNACHT: (all Galway): C Callanan (1-0, free); B Flaherty, S Kavanagh, P Killeen; T Óg Regan, J Cooney, N Donoghue; A Harte, P Brehony; P Gordon, J Glynn, C Donnellan (0-3); S Maloney, N Burke (0-9, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65), A Callanan. Subs: D Hayes (1-0) for Gordon (half-time); D Glennon (1-1) for A Callanan (half-time); J Grealish for Brehony (44 mins); R Cummins for Maloney (54 mins).
LEINSTER: G Maguire (Dublin); P Murphy (Kilkenny), JJ Delaney (Kilkenny), J Tyrrell (Kilkenny); T Walsh (Kilkenny), B Hogan (Kilkenny), R Hanniffy (Offaly); M Fennelly (Kilkenny), D Redmond (Wexford); D Sutcliffe (Dublin), J Bergin (0-2, Offaly), C Fennelly (0-1, Kilkenny); S Dooley (0-8, 0-7 frees, Offaly), R Hogan (0-3, Kilkenny), A Fogarty (0-2, Kilkenny). Subs: P Kelly (Dublin) for Redmond (47 mins); E Larkin (1-0, Kilkenny) for Bergin (53 mins); C Keaney (Dublin) for C Fennelly (56 mins); P Morris (Wexford) for Sutcliffe (69 mins). Referee: O Elliott (Antrim)