Connacht progress to hurling final

Connacht 3-19 Ulster 1-15
Connacht’s hurlers overcame the challenge of 14-man Ulster to qualify for the M Donnelly Interprovincial Championship final at Ballinasloe this afternoon.

The westerners’ 10-point victory completes a memorable weekend for their manager Anthony Cunningham, whose Garrycastle side qualified for the AIB All-Ireland Club SFC final yesterday.

Ulster, managed by Dunloy man Gregory O’Kane, got off to an encouraging start in Galway with Antrim’s Neil McManus (0-2), Neil McAuley, Michael Armstrong and Karl Stewart shooting them into a 0-5 to 0-0 lead.

Niall Burke sent over the all-Galway Connacht team’s first point from a free won by Damien Hayes, and Cunningham’s charges then settled into their stride.

Johnny Coen and Burke pointed before McManus replied for the Ulstermen. But further points from Eanna Ryan and Burke, allied to Iarla Tannian’s goal from a Donie Fox pass, had Connacht 1-7 to 0-7 ahead.

Tannian’s goal was the difference between the sides at half-time with the hosts leading by 1-8 to 0-8.

But perhaps more importantly, Ulster suffered a sending off before the break with McManus adding a final point before picking up his second yellow card.

They dug their heels in though early in the second period, points from Stewart (free), Armstrong and Armagh’s Cathal Carville getting them back on terms for a short time.

It was then Connacht’s turn to up the tempo as Tannian landed a point, Burke fired over his seventh of the afternoon and Barry Daly provided the assist for a 53rd minute goal from substitute Davy Glennon.

Free-taker Stewart answered back for Ulster, but Connacht were well in control of the tie as Burke, Coen and Tannion, who slotted two more points including one from an acute angle, stretched the lead to 2-15 to 0-15.

Ulster increased the pressure with a penalty from full-back Cormac Donnelly, following a foul on Armstrong. However, just 20 seconds later, Ryan cracked home Connacht’s third goal.

The win was wrapped up by points from Niall Healy (0-2), Ryan and Tannian, as Connacht progressed to a final meeting with Leinster in two weeks’ time.

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