Emphatic defeat for Mayo-fuelled Connacht

Well, if we can claim the bulk of the credit for Connacht’s decisive victory over Leinster last weekend in the Railway Cup semi-final then we have to be prepared to accept the bulk of the responsibility for the province’s decisive defeat to Munster in this evening’s interprovincial final.  Played in front of a few hundred hardy souls in bracing conditions at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, this was a match in which Connacht never competed and the 1-9 to 0-7 final scoreline didn’t flatter the Munster lads in the slightest.  It was Munster’s first interprovincial title since 1999 but Connacht’s wait for this particular gong will now extend to a full forty years.

There were eight Mayo lads in Johnno’s starting line-up last weekend and he went one better tonight, with Ronan McGarritty starting at midfield and Pat Harte moving to centre-forward in place of the injured Padraig Joyce. The wily old Killererin fox had pulled the strings in the Connacht attack at Kiltoom the last day and it became quickly obvious that the Westerners’ offensive threat wasn’t going to be as great tonight in his absence.

Connacht won plenty of possession in the first ten minutes but the quality of ball sent into the forwards was nothing short of dire, with ball after ball kicked straight to unmarked Munster defenders.  We should have racked up a few scores in that opening period when we had Munster pinned back but we failed to do so and soon the Southerners gave our lads cause to regret this failure.

In a devastating burst, Munster raced into a 1-4 to 0-0 lead, with points from play by Cork’s Daniel Goulding and Nicholas Murphy and a free from Limerick’s Ian Ryan followed by a cracking goal by Waterford’s Maurice O’Gorman, who ended a flowing move that saw the Connacht rearguard carved totally open.  Seven points down after 15 minutes or so and already the match was as good as over.

Mort finally opened Connacht’s account from a free after twenty minutes but two more Munster points from Goulding (a free) and Donncha O’Connor extended their lead.  On the stroke of half-time, Alan Dillon got Connacht’s first point from play but they trudged off at half-time 1-6 to 0-2 in arrears.

Connacht needed an early goal in the second half if they were to have any hope of making a game of it and they came close shortly after the restart when a good move ended with Mort crashing a shot against the upright.  Alan Dillon then swung over this fine point from distance and a free from Mort cut the gap to five but Cork’s Goulding added two at the other end to restore Munster’s seven-point lead. Roscommon’s Ger Heneghan – who had replaced Leitrim’s Emlyn Mulligan – then knocked over two frees for Connacht (Mort had left the field by now as well) with the night’s scoring concluded by another Munster point from Donncha O’Connor and then this point from play from Andy Moran.

It was a dismal Connacht performance, one which saw them run ragged by a far slicker and more confident Munster outfit.  Johnno was bellowing like a bear on the sideline for most of the match and in the spooky quiet of the near-empty ground, his voice fairly carried across the freezing midland air.  His decision to backbone the provincial side with Mayo lads quite clearly didn’t come off and, with a bench that included Galway lads such as Damien Burke, Gary Sice and Joe Bergin (with only the latter coming on during the game), it’s difficult to know why he opted to field the team that he did.

Few of our lads would have been happy with their performance, apart from David Clarke, who did very well between the posts, and Tom Cunniffe in defence, although it’s obvious that full-back isn’t his ideal position (but, then, no Mayo supporter would need to be reminded on this point). Neither Peadar Gardiner nor James Nallen got into the game at all and although Ronan won a fair bit of ball around the middle, he wasted a lot of it with ill-timed passes.  Andy put in an amount of effort but to little effect and Pat Harte failed to get the attack moving at centre-forward. Alan Dillon scored two good points from play but apart from that he wasn’t in the thick of things and Mort, while unlucky with his goal attempt early in the second half, contributed little except for his two pointed frees.

All in all, it wasn’t a night to remember for Connacht or for our lads’ contribution to the province’s cause.  And, in a virtually empty O’Moore Park, it was also difficult to be in any way positive about the future of the interprovincials.  One thing’s for sure – a freezing cold night in November is not the ideal time of the year to play this (or indeed any other) kind of game.

8 thoughts on “Emphatic defeat for Mayo-fuelled Connacht

  1. Willie Joe , I am chocked with the flu and grumpy. The carry on in Cork has me depressed. We ourselves indulged in some of that crap back in the early 1990s and hadnt much luck from it. One way out of this would be that once each team exits the championship , their entire panel is also disbanded. That way once the county board decides or decides not to swiss the manager, the said manager can pick a brand new panel on appontment. I think its a bit presumptious for players deciding who should or should not manage the team. Their job is to play. of course its this grant crap thing that has done serious damage to panels. Now it would take a brave manager to try and oust numbers 23 to thirty out and replace them late into a season, bearing in mind that approx a few grand of greenbacks are at stake. So the guy who is the comedian at number 27 gets to stay along with Bloggs, Bluff, and Brutal who have been on panels since 2000 and still are no nearer to the first fifteen. Sorry, maybe its the flu and that I broke my promise not to comment until F.B.D. So long

  2. The carry-on in Cork is depressing alright. I think they made the mistake of not coming down on them hard enough earlier this year when they went on strike. They should have turfed both the hurlers and footballers out of the NFL for what they did but instead the likes of Roscommon and others were disadvantaged by having to play them (with Meath and Dublin profiting by having not to). I think HQ should put a gun to their heads now and tell them to sort it out pronto or else there’s no place for them in any competitions in 2009. That should get them back into line quickly enough.

    A few hot ones and an early night should sort the flu, not sure what to prescribe for the grumps!

    All the best


  3. Few who made it down to Portlaois on Saturday night could doubt JOM’s commitment to the cause!

  4. Absolutely, Shane – and he sure can roar too; I guess that’s what comes from 31 years in the classroom!

  5. genuinely disappointed with the result & the GAA’s attitude to this competition. Maybe they’re afraid it could become something bigger(like the rugger) and overshadow the clubs completely??? I dont know why they turn their nose up at it…..it has massive potential if promoted properly. Scrapping the “International Rules” would be a good starting point. I remember 10000 plus at the Final in Mchale park in the 96/97….that must have been the biggest attendance in a long time although back in the day it attracted huge interest apparently

  6. The GAA’s stance on it is disappointing alright and the way they allowed it to clash with the International Rules was a total disgrace. It was a bit pathetic to see only a couple of hundred people in O’Moore Park the last night and of course this lack of interest provides more ammunition for the abolition brigade.

    They got 10,000 for it at Croker last year as well but i think a lot of those tickets were freebies and because it was Croker, that size of a crowd wasn’t deemed a success notwithstanding the fact that it was held on the Bank Holiday weekend and Leinster weren’t in either game.

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