Ryan's late goal eases pressure on Connacht


HURLING INTERPROVINCIAL SEMI-FINALS: Connacht 3-19 Ulster 1-15:CONNACHT REACHED the final of the championships after limping past 14-man Ulster in Ballinasloe yesterday.

Ulster played the entire second-half without Neil McManus who was show a second yellow card in first-half injury-time, but it wasn’t until Eanna Ryan’s goal six minutes from time that Connacht could breathe easily.

Galway did pull away in the closing moments with the returning Niall Healy and Iarla Tannian hitting fine scores, but the Connacht and Galway management team recognise that they will need a huge improvement against the league champions next weekend.

“We got some nice scores today, but Ulster were up for the game. They were good and physical and used a nice running game. It was a good test,” said Mattie Kenny.

“Today’s game was about that exactly: resting some of our key players for next Sunday and having a look at our squad. And we looked at a good few more guys there today and they got a chance to get a game. But we’ll expect Dublin to come with all guns blazing next weekend. They are one of the top teams in Ireland at the moment,” Kenny said.

Lining out with 15 Galway men from the start, Cunningham’s side were expected to click immediately, but instead it was the Ulster men under the tutelage of Gregory O’Kane that were the more cohesive outfit. And O’Kane was disgusted with the sending off, which he claims was harsh on McManus.

“It is very disappointing to lose a man especially in the first half. Are umpires going to run these game or what, I don’t know,” said O’Kane. “This is the lads’ first game out in the season and we can’t always be looking to send players off, we have to try and keep them on the pitch.

“And the lad didn’t do a lot wrong. On that aspect it changed the course of the game but I am very proud of lads, they played a great second half down to 14 men. Probably the last goal Connacht got was the difference.”

Indeed, with seven minutes remaining the 14 men had pulled to within a goal of their hosts when Cormac Donnelly crashed a penalty past Jamie Ryan.

At that stage it looked as if Connacht were going to be punished for their failure to shake off Ulster, but a minute later Eanna Ryan ran onto a flick through from Iarla Tannian and found the net.

After trailing 1-8 to 0-8 at the break and facing into the second half a man down, Ulster will be delighted with what followed.

Two quick points kept them well in contention in the 39th minute and even when substitute Davy Glennon rounded off a splendid move with a goal in the 53rd minute O’Kane’s side didn’t panic, as Karl Stewart kept landing his frees.

But ultimately they wilted under the pressure after Ryan’s goal as the fresh legs of Connacht’s substitutes made the difference.

CONNACHT:J Ryan; P Shiel, N Donoghue, Ger O’Halloran; T Óg Regan, F Moore, B Flaherty; J Grealish, D Fox; B Burke, N Burke (0-8, four frees), E Ryan (1-3); D Hayes, J Coen (0-2), I Tannian (1-4). Subs: B Daly for Fox (h-t); D Glennon (1-0) for Grealish (46 mins); N Healy (0-2, one free) for N Burke (56 mins); P Gordon for Flaherty (58 mins); K Raymond for Coen (74 mins).

ULSTER:G Clarke; A Graffin, C Donnelly (1-0, penalty), S Ennis; N McAuley (0-1), L Hinphey, S McCrory; C Woods, N McManus (0-5, four frees); M Herron, K McGarry, M Armstrong (0-2); P McCloskey, K Stewart (0-6, frees), C Carville (0-1). Subs: J Coyle for McGarry (h-t); R Gaffney for McCloskey (43 mins); M Ennis for S Ennis (78 mins).

Referee: Tony Carroll (Offaly).