Connacht end long wait for Railway Cup title in fine style

Big Dawg with Cup

Photo: @ConnachtGAA

It’s been a long time coming but Connacht’s wait for a tenth Railway Cup football title finally ended at Tuam Stadium this afternoon when a storming second half display saw them crush defending champions Ulster by a decisive 2-19 to 1-7 scoreline. Ulster were bidding to land an interprovincial three-in-a-row but instead the men from the West ended a 45-year wait to clinch the province’s first football title since 1969.

Despite the soft spot I have for the Interpros, I didn’t make it to Tuam today – opting instead for the short stroll up the road to see the Dublin/Clare hurling match at Parnell Park – but was able to follow the action on the Twitter machine courtesy of the regular score updates from @ConnachtGAA.

The Connacht side that lined out today featured six of our lads – Robbie Hennelly in goal, Keith Higgins at corner-back, Kevin McLoughlin at wing-back, Aidan O’Shea (who captained the team) and Jason Gibbons at midfield and Michael Conroy at corner-forward – with four from Galway, three from Roscommon and one each from Leitrim and Sligo – full details here. The team was managed by Galway’s John Tobin.

The Westerners didn’t have things their own way in the first half, going in 1-5 to 0-6 behind at the break. Ulster’s goal came from Colm Cavanagh on the half-hour mark while Robbie Hennelly was Connacht’s top scorer at that stage with two points, one a ’45 and the other a free. Keith Higgins got one of the other four points with one each also coming from Galway’s Sean Armstrong, Roscommon’s Niall Daly and Sligo’s David Kelly.

Connacht seized control of the contest on the resumption. A goal from Michael Conroy edged the Westerners in front and a deluge of points followed. Ulster had no answer to this barrage – in which Robbie Hennelly (another long-range free), Keith Higgins, Kevin McLoughlin and Aidan O’Shea all featured – as Connacht stormed clear.

Sligo’s David Kelly provided the icing on the cake in the form of the Westerners’ second goal and they ran out winners by a 15-point margin at the end. Well, I guess that if you’re going to end a protracted wait for a title you may as well do so in style and Connacht certainly did that at Tuam today. Well done to them and, in particular, to the Mayo lads who played such a prominent part in this long overdue interprovincial success.

29 thoughts on “Connacht end long wait for Railway Cup title in fine style

  1. Well done to Connaught. It’s great to see a trophy coming west , and the chance of another trophy in a few weeks too.
    I see aiden got man of the match, how did Jason gibbons fair ?
    There’s been a lot of changes since 1969, and mayo still haven’t won Sam, maybe this and a Castlebar victory will spur them on.

  2. Very pleased about this.

    When you think of all the good sides from Connacht and that includes 2 Galway AI teams, it’s amazing it took so long. But great to see it happen.

  3. Thanks for that WJ. It was great to get the win alright. Well done and congrats to all involved! The full list of scorers and teams, were as follows:

    Scorers for Connacht: M Conroy and D Kelly 1-1 each; R Hennelly 0-3 (2f, 1 ’45), C Cregg and S Armstrong 0-3 each; K McLoughlin 0-2 (1f), K Higgins 0-2; N Daly, A O’Shea, E Mulligan and P Conroy 0-1 each.

    Scorers for Ulster: C Cavanagh 1-0; C McManus 0-3 (3f); N Morgan, S Cavanagh and M Murphy 0-1 (1f) each, M Poland 0-1.

    Connacht: R Hennelly (Mayo); S McDermott (Roscommon), J Moore (Galway), K Higgins (Mayo); G Bradshaw (Galway), N Daly (Roscommon), K McLoughlin (Mayo); A O’Shea (Mayo), J Gibbons (Mayo); S Armstrong (Galway), E Mulligan (Leitrim), C Cregg (Roscommon); M Conroy (Mayo), P Conroy (Galway), D Kelly (Sligo). Subs: T Flynn (Galway) for O’Shea (8), O’Shea for Flynn (11); D Cummins (Galway) for Kelly (47), Kelly for Cummins (55); M Brehony (Sligo) for Kelly (65); E Concannon (Galway) for M Conroy (65); G Reynolds (Leitrim) for Bradshaw (65); N Ewing (Sligo) for McDermott (67)

    Ulster: N Morgan (Tyrone); E McGee (Donegal), N McGee (Donegal), C Clarke (Tyrone); S L McGoldrick (Derry), R McCluskey (Fermanagh), P Harte (Tyrone); S Cavanagh (Tyrone), E Donnelly (Fermanagh); C Mackey (Cavan), M Poland (Down), C Cavanagh (Tyrone); E Keating (Cavan), M Murphy (Donegal), C McManus (Monaghan). Subs: K Hughes (Monaghan) for Keating (12); M McHugh (Donegal) for MacKey (30); C McKaigue (Derry) for McCluskey (Black) (44); D Givney (Cavan) for Donnelly (46); K McKernan (Down) for Cavanagh (52).

  4. 5 of 6 Mayo players getting on the scoreboard, a Mayo man getting MOTM and a Mayo man lifting the cup. Nice !!! 😀

  5. Like everyone above I too am delighted with that Connaught win and needless to say, well over due. Also great to see the Mayo lads featuring so well and Aidan getting MOTM will be a real boost for him going forward.

    Interesting to see McLoughlin playing left half back – wonder how he played in that position ? might be something for Horan to have a look at.

    And has anyone noticed how child like our Aidan looked when raising the cup – wonder was he thinking further down the road ???

  6. Yeah Mayo McHale, it was very interesting to note that both Keith Higgins and Kevin McLoughlin scored points from play while playing in defensive positions. Maybe they have a bit more freedom coming forward from the back rather than when they start up-front.

  7. Jason Gibbons played very well again to day. He took a heavy knock and he got up and played a good game. His pass for Connacht,s first goal was a brilliant move. I thought he should have got a penalty awarded to him. The referee was terrible and the likes of his refereeing makes a mockery out of games. Aiden O, Shea was also good and he was fouled every time he got a ball. It brought back great memories of 1969. I never thought it would take 45 years before I would see the next win. To the management team of Martin Carney, John Tobin and all concerned with this win, well done. To those in 1996 who have passed on to their eternal reward, may they rest in peace

  8. Connacht teams are on a good run of wins at the moment. Mayo won last year’s All-Ireland minor title, Galway won the U21 title and Roscommon’s St Brigids won the club title. Today Connacht won the Railway Cup for the first time since 1969. Castlebar Mitchles are playing in the club final on the 17th of March. Just a note of caution, I think in the build-up to this game there should be no talk of what bridge the cup will be carried over, or where bonfires will be lit, or that Mitchels name is on the cup etc. etc. We should learn from the past and not be talking like that. It’s all about the 70 minutes of the match, that’s all that matters. Remember your only as good as your last game. Pat Holmes has said that they won’t be putting any extra pressure on the players in the build-up to the game, it’s all about the performance on the day. If Castlebar play to their potential on the day, they are in with a great chance. So I reckon as supporters we should all give the player’s some space and wish them all the best of luck. If they play their best, that’s all we can ask of them as supporters. Seize the day, Castlebar Mitchels!

  9. Fair play to that Connacht team for finally landing the silverware.
    The competition has lost its appeal somehow but when you look at the lineout of both teams today you would wonder why that is.
    I didnt go to the game but i feel its a real bonus to the lads involved to be on the winning side particulary when you look at the Ulster team sheet.
    Certainly a real bonus to our lads going forward.
    A huge gap has been bridged today in Tuam, i hope there is another one bridged later in the year.

  10. How did Higgins and McLoughlin play in their positions today? Fair play to the Connaught lads strong Ulster team as well.

  11. Well done Connacht , in 1967 and 1969 when they last won it coincidently Mayo won Connacht titles. Intriguingly the 67 one by Mayo was the first since 1955. The 1969 Connacht title was our last until 1981. Connacht endured a bigger famine. Between 55-81 and excluding both, we won only two Connacht senior crowns , a poor haul over 26 years. Enjoy the good times, there are no guarantees

  12. I said elsewhere recently that it feels like a ‘pointless’ competition, but I’m rethinking that statement. I can see why the players like it – it’s a fantastic opportunity to play with the best of the best from your province, in a competition with a different focus, and in all honesty, it’s a crying shame that it’s so neglected by the GAA.

    Going off on a slight tangent, did anyone read Colm O’Rourke’s piece in the Sindo today about fixture congestion? It’s a really strongly worded article and it’s hard to argue with him:

  13. Well done to the 5 counties.
    Good to see Connacht lift the trophy after such a drought. Not many years ago Connacht football was considered to be in the doldrums but not now and hopefully it will stay for a long time to come. Lifting silverware is good for our lads and here’s hoping it becomes a habit.
    Now let’s go and take the kingdom next weekend.

  14. Are you saying when Mayo win senior Connacht title this summer it could be their last for 12 years? 😉

  15. Well done to our lads on the Connacht team. Just thinking it must be hard for JH to work with the team……..between players being away with colleges, Connacht, U21, club championship, injuries etc. it would drive me mad not to have them available.

  16. I would say no guarantees in Connacht. Generally there has been very little to separate the teams come championship and just because we dominated last year does not mean we will automatically become like Dublin in Leinster. Plus Galway football (albeit doing poorly so far in Div2) is beginning to rise once more. And Ros are a good bet to get back to Div2 next year.

    I think we need to begin to win consistently at U21 level once more. The entire current team is built upon backbone of those teams that won 4 U21 titles in a row. But success has not appeared now for some time at this level.

  17. Great win for Connacht and given the history very unexpected. While the interest in the competition has declined since it’s heydey in the 50’s/early 60’s it should rank next to an All Star as recognition for top players. I think myself that TV and other St Patrick’s day festivities contributed to the decline in spectator interest and therefore player interest – easier to watch from the arm chair combined with local parades etc, than going to the game on what is often a miserable February or St Patrick’s day. From what I hear there was a great togetherness in the team this year compared to previous years when county cliques dominated.
    Regards comment on its being hard for JH to work with players being away etc, I do not think that JH had any involvement at all. According to my information the management was Brian Breen [Leitrim], Martin Carney [Mayo]and John Tobin [Galway]. Also regards comment on Keith Higgins’ and Kevin McLoughlin’s defensive displays Mayo have sufficient defensive resources to be able to play them in the forwards where we are coming up short. Hopefully forwards will emerge over the coming months [we need at least two and probably three] who will make it unnecessary to be making do with converted defenders although Kevin McLoughlin’s displays as a forward over the past three years have been excellent while the jury on Keith Higgins as a forward is still out.

  18. An afterthought – Rob Hennelly seems to be improving rapidly on his long range free taking. Long may it continue and it must be the result of a lot of hard – and probably lonely – work.

  19. Agree with you Andy D……that sort of quality only comes through practice practice practice and fair play to Robbie Hennelly, he knows the best way to kep his position when others return is to be indespensible and he is making himself exactly that in providing us with a reliable long distance freetaker/45s etc

  20. I agree the jury is still out on Higgins as a forward. Although McLoughlin is definitely an inter-county standard forward – in fact he’s an All-Star standard forward.

    I personally believe we need a dedicated out-and-out centre forward. Keith played there last year and Doherty the year before – while both may have a lot to offer a forward unit I don’t think they are CF’s. We don’t appear to have some outstanding young player or overlooked club player in this position either. My preference would be to place one of Andy or Cillian here and let them dictate play from here. Freeman can hold down FF and with one of those two also in the inside forward line we should have enough competition to fill the other corner spot (Conroy, Doherty, Gallagher, Dillon, etc.)

  21. Ciaran – this is same point you’re making, over and over again, and this time is once too often. If you want to make a comment on anything of relevance then please do so but you’ll have to find somewhere else for the broken record stuff, I’m afraid.

  22. Cluxton has redefined the role of the goalkeeper with his kickout ability and also his ability from placed balls.
    It’s arguable whether Dublin would have won either of their last two all-irelands without him. He was certainly a major part of their win over us and if I’m not mistaken he scored two out of three long range frees against us in the final while Hennelly missed the one long range free he took.
    Now I’m not knocking Hennelly because several other, easier chances were missed but if you can make small improvements whereby a high percentage of those chances are converted, that can be the difference between winning and losing.
    In tight games it comes down to small things.

  23. Jason Gibbons is the first man I’d try on the 40 if he can be spared from midfield. keeping Andy and Cillian for the corners where they are most dangerous. Gibbons does seem to have very good passing skills.

  24. Well if the GAA put the same effort into the railway cup than they do into the bloody international rules it would be a wonderful spectacle. id go one step further and do away wth the International rules altogether and just focus on the railway cup with a view to getting the crowds back on board. its not so long ago when 10 thousand turned up to the final back in 96/97 final. Personally i was delighted with the win yesterday and the more importantly the players seemed chuffed too!

  25. I thought there was merit in the suggestion that the International Rules and Interprovincials should alternate in years as the “setpiece” event.

  26. I think the only way to save the Railway Cups would be to pick the All-Stars in the immediate aftermath of the series.

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