By Michael O Connor.
Munster collected their 45th Martin Donnelly sponsored interprovincial hurling title with a comfortable 10 point win over a Connacht side that never produced a display that was expected from them in Cusack Park. With the NHL a huge priority for the all Galway selected side a number of experimental players were used and this sometimes worked but on most occasions did not succeed in getting the desired result for Connacht.
Galway sharpshooter Joe Canning opened the scoring from play after only a minutes action playing into the Ennis town goal but that was as good as it got for the westerners as Munster dominated the intervening ten minutes notching up four points as the Connacht forward line gave little difficulty to the outrushing Munster defence. Shane Dowling, Patrick Horgan (free), Anthony Nash (free) and Patrick Horgan (free) were all on target for Munster in this period to go (0-4) to (0-1)up and looking comfortable.
Connacht rallied considerably and with less frees conceded reduced Munsters ability to score. Tadgh Haran after being set up by Niall Healy hit Connacht’s second point and two minutes later Cyril Donnellan reduced the Connacht deficit to the minimum after 13 minutes.
The tempo after a promising start dropped markedly with a number of stoppages and the match official blowing continuously. Joe Canning (free) and Niall Healy from play sent Connacht clear after 17 minutes. Again Connacht started to foul and allowed Patrick Horgan to point another Munster free. Connacht began trail of self destruct letting Munster in for (1-2) in three minutes. Firstly, Shane Dowling hit an good effort from play before a smart passage of play set up Paudie O Sullivan for a well taken. This was quickly followed up by a Graeme Mulcahy point to leave the team in blue (1-8) to (0-5) clear.
There was a real danger that Connacht might succumb but they rallied with the following three points from Joe Canning (2) and Niall Healy to reduce Munster lead to a goal. There was a constant threat that Connacht could be opened up for Munster goal shots as the slick interpassing of the Munster forwards was always a danger to an overstretched Connacht rearguard. The last batch of scores before half time came from Pa Cronin (2) and David Collins for leave Connacht (1-11) to (0-9) in arrears at the break.
A far from satisfied Connacht management entered the dressingroom as they would be using this as a valuable game in preparation for the all important NHL game with Clare. Munster started the second half in the same fashon that they ended with three in a row from Horgan, Mulcahy and Cronin to open up an eight point lead five minutes into the new half. Connacht began to rally with some spirit and hit four without reply as Iarla Tannian, Joe Canning (2) who worked tirelessly and Niall Healy were on the mark, Indeed Healy took a heavy knock to the body scoring his effort to reduce the Munster lead to four points after 50 minutes. On a number of occasions Connacht let themselves down with a dropped ball or a miss hit short pass when the scoring opportunity was available.
Nothing short of three goals was going to resurrect the Connacht cause when four further scores from Pa Cronin, Paudie O Sullivan (2) including one spectacular effort off the hurley and Mulcahy stretched Munster (1-18) to (0-13) clear after 56 minutes action in Cusack park. Patrick Horgan (2) and Shane O Sullivan added to the growing munster tally before Horgan was called ashore by Liam Sheedy. The game petered out to its inevitable conclusion as Connacht failed to add just two extra points from the 46th minute to the final whistle coming from a David Collins converted 65 and a fine effort from Joseph Cooney.
MUNSTER: Anthony Nash (0-1), Shane O Neill, Tom Condron, Stephen Daniels, Brendan Bugler, Michael Walsh Wayne McNamara, Shane O Sullivan (0-1), Brendan Maher, Shane Dowling (0-3), Lar Corbett, Pa Cronin (0-3), Graeme Mulcahy (0-3), Paudie O Sullivan (1-2), Patrick Horgan (0-9). Subs: Eoin Kelly for Horgan, Tom Kenny for O Sullivan, Patrick Maher for Dowling, Colin Ryan for Corbett, Gavin O Mahony for McNamara.
CONNACHT: Colm Callanan, John Coen, Kevin Hynes, Paul Killeen, Brian Flaherty, David Collins (0-2), Niall Donoghue, Iarla Tannian (0-1), Andrew Smith, Padraig Brehony, Niall Burke, Cyril Donnellan (0-1), Niall Healy (0-3, Joe Canning (0-6), Tadgh Haran (0-1). Sub: Davy Glennon for Brehony, Jonathan Glynn for N Burke, Joseph Cooney (0-1) for Killeen, Damien Hayes for Haran, Aidan Harte for Smith
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois).