Niall Murphy keeps Connacht on course to defend football title

Sligo player’s late goal secures spot in Interprovincial final

 

Connacht 2-17 Leinster 1-18

A late goal from Sligo’s Niall Murphy was crucial at Parnell Park as reigning champions Connacht defeated Leinster at the end of an enthralling Interprovincial Senior Football Championship semi-final.

Connacht had raced into an early three-point lead courtesy of scores from Murphy, Danny Cummins and Damien Comer, and though Leinster eventually responded with a long-distance free by Westmeath’s John Heslin, John Tobin’s well-drilled Westerners answered back through Murphy and Jason Doherty.

Heslin’s reliable place-kicking kept Leinster within touching distance, and he was subsequently joined by his Lake County compatriot, Kieran Martin, on the Leinster scoresheet.

However, Connacht replied with a Ciaran Murtagh goal on 22 minutes, and despite conceding back-to-back scores to Darragh Foley and John McGrath, subsequent unanswered points by Cummins, Murtagh and Doherty helped Connacht to develop a 1-10 to 0-7 interval cushion.

Yet, when Leinster points from Heslin (two) and Louth’s Declan Byrne were supplemented by a much-needed Martin goal in the 43rd minute, it set the game for a tantalising conclusion.

Three consecutive points by substitute Shane O’Rourke, John O’Loughlin and the ever-influential Heslin gave Leinster a slender advantage, but Connacht were able to find an extra gear in the closing moments.

After Cummins had added to a Murphy equaliser, he turned provider for the Yeats County man’s 59th-minute three-pointer, and in spite of late contributions by the Westmeath duo of Paul Sharry and Heslin, a monstrous point by wing-back Niall Daly was enough for Connacht to progress.

CONNACHT: D Clarke (Mayo); K McDonnell (Sligo), N McInerney (Roscommon), D Wynne (Galway); N Daly (Roscommon, 0-1), G O’Donnell (Galway), J Heaney (Galway); E Smith (Roscommon, 0-1), K Higgins (Roscommon); F Cregg (Roscommon,0-1), C Murtagh (Roscommon, 1-1), J Doherty (Mayo, 0-6, four frees); N Murphy (Sligo, 1-3), D Comer (Galway, 0-1), D Cummins (Galway, 0-3).

Subs: S Mullooly (Roscommon), C O’Shea (Mayo), D Murtagh (Roscommon); Emlyn Mulligan (Leitrim), P Cunningham (Offaly), A Varley (Galway), J McManus (Roscommon), D Wrynn (Leitrim).

LEINSTER: A Mulhall (Offaly); P Rath (Louth), Kevin Meaney (Laois), D Daly (Dublin); D Healy (Wicklow), J Small (Dublin), J Dolan (Westmeath); J O’Loughlin (Laois, 0-1), D Foley (Carlow, 0-1); K Martin (Westmeath, 1-1), P Sharry (Westmeath, 0-1), J McGrath (Wicklow, 0-1); N Flynn (Kildare), J Heslin (Westmeath, 0-10, six frees), N Dunne (Offaly).

Subs: J Byrne (Kildare, 0-1), D Byrne (Louth, 0-1), D Kingston (Laois), D St Ledger (Carlow), G Guilfoyle (Offaly), B Malone (Wexford), S O’Rourke (Meath, 0-1), P Cunningham (Offaly), P Collum (Longford).

Referee: N Mooney (Cavan).

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