Kernan hails effort as Ulster turn on style


Ulster 3-16 Connacht 0-13:AFTER A facile victory, a pleased Ulster manager Joe Kernan said the province always had a tradition of treating the competition seriously.

Kernan won three Railway Cup medals during his own career and he is now hopeful he can guide them to a 30th success in the competition.

“It speaks for the quality of the players that they can turn in that sort of performance even though we only had one small session together. But they are class players and they can turn it on no matter who they are playing for.

“I thought they used the ball very well, ran into good positions and 3-16 is a huge score to chalk up any day. Hopefully now we can go on and win it,” said Kernan.

Peter Harte was superb as Ulster blew Connacht away at Markievicz Park in Sligo to set up an interprovincial football final with Munster.

The Tyrone attacker was in outstanding form as the most prolific winners of the competition encountered few difficulties against a Connacht side who have not won the tournament since 1969.

Harte was full of running in an Ulster side that moved the ball and Connacht just had no answer to their powerful showing.

A crowd of less than 500 turned up in Sligo and Kernan believes that the choice of venue can increase crowds.

“It has nothing to do with Sligo but we need to explore staging this at club grounds. Four years ago we had it in Crossmaglen and we had 4,500 at it,” added Kernan.

His side were always in control against a Connacht side who never got going.

Nine players scored for Ulster with Harte, Mark Poland, Owen Mulligan and Martin Penrose outstanding.

Connacht only managed two points from play. Conor Mortimer, their best forward, got one of those and also landed eight points from frees.

Wing-back Wayne McKeon of Leitrim got their only other score from open play as the Ulster defence were on top, ably led by captain Darren Hughes at centre-back and full-back Neil McGee.

The Ulster attack picked off scores from all angles.

Surprisingly, Benny Coulter at full forward was the only forward not to find the target but midfielders Dan Gordon and Rory Kavanagh kicked some fine points, while wing backs Ciarán McKeever and James Loughrey also found the range.

Poland created the opening goal for Harte after 11 minutes and the Down forward then put Ulster 2-4 to 0-3 in front after 18 minutes when he blasted home a goal.

That helped Ulster lead by 2-10 to 0-5 at the interval.

Connacht hinted at a comeback after the restart when Roscommon’s Donie Shine and Mortimer picked off points but they badly needed an elusive goal to get back in contention.

The goal, though, came at the other end after 53 minutes when the superb Harte set up Martin Penrose and he made no mistake from close range.

That put Ulster 3-13 to 0-8 in front and they continued to dominate during the closing stages, although Mortimar tacked on a string of frees for Connacht.

Connacht manager Fergal O’Donnell said that they had little time to prepare for the contest and it showed. “In the circumstances we did as much as we could but with injuries, colleges games and so on it was difficult to get any preparation done and it was clear from the way we played.

“It is a great honour for players to play in the interprovincials but maybe if we started the first three league games before Christmas it would give this competition some chance but at this time of year it seems to be competing with a lot of other competitions,” said the former Roscommon boss.

ULSTER:B McVeigh; B Donaghy, N McGee, K Lacey; C McKeever (0-1), D Hughes,

J Loughrey (0-1); D Gordon (0-2), R Kavanagh (0-1); P Harte (1-2), M Poland (1-0), C Gilligan (0-3); M Penrose (1-4, 0-2 frees); B Coulter, O Mulligan (0-2). Subs: V Corey for Loughrey (55 mins), M Donnelly for Coulter (59 mins), O Lennon for Kavanagh, (62 mins), C McCarron for Lacey (65 mins).

CONNACHT:G Claffey; S McDermott, S Purcell, C Harrison; G Bradshaw, J Davey, W McKeon (0-1); M Finneran, B Egan;

K McLaughlin, D Shine (0-2, frees), A Dillon;

C Mortimer (0-9, 1 free), A Marren, N Joyce (0-1, free). Subs: K Higgins for Joyce (35 mins), T Flynn for Egan (35 mins), M Conroy for Marren (53 mins), P Conroy for Finneran (55 mins), M Breheny for Shine (62 mins).

Referee:J Curley (Meath).