A PALTRY 658 loyal and true supporters’ may have turned out for the M. Donnelly GAA hurling inter-provincial championship final at Nowlan Park on Sunday, but Kilkenny star Jackie Tyrrell still gave the thumbs up to a competition that on the face of it is dying on its feet.
The James Stephens man, who captained Leinster to what was their 27th victory in the competition once known as the Railway Cup, followed in the footsteps of county colleague, J.J. Delaney, who skippered the province to victory when it was last played in 2009.
“It is lovely to win it,” the All-Star told the ’People after delivering a fine acceptance speed in Irish. “It is a great competition. The players love it.”
Tyrrell explained that part of the lure of the inter-pro series was that the games were less pressurised than was the norm, but an even better attraction was the chance to meet and socialise with players from other counties who Kilkenny lads would rarely encounter.
“That was a good win for all of us. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Tyrrell continued. “We made hard work of it in the end. At half-time we were comfortable enough.
“The inter-pro series is different. It is a nice change when you come out of an intense training environment like Kilkenny. There is not as much pressure in a competition like this. I think is great. It is worth promoting.
“Certainly I would be all for it. It is a chance to win representatives honours, which is a good thing. Sure we might as well be playing a match as training. Hurlers just want to play hurling, and that is what we were doing here.”
Eight Kilkenny players backboned the Leinster side, while goalie David Herity came on as a second half substitute. Panellists Noel Hickey, Brian Hogan, J.J. Delaney and Richie Hogan, who were all nursing injuries, remained with the Leinster squad for the afternoon to lend their support to the effort.
“The job was done in the first half,” was the view offered by Leinster manager, Joe Dooley (Offaly), who was joined on the sideline by Derek Lyng (Kilkenny) and John Conran (Wexford). “We hurled very well and we got some great scorers. We could have had another goal or two before the break.”
By the time the interval was reached the all Galway Connacht team were already in big, big trouble. They were 0-8 to 2-13 behind after playing with the wind that whistled through the stands.
“I was very happy with the win,” Mr Dooley continued. “The game was probably over at half-time. Connacht came back strongly in the second half, but they never looked like catching us.
Did it the hard way
“We beat Munster and Connacht in the series, so no one can say we didn’t do things the hard way.”
GAA President Christy Cooney was on hand to make the presentation to the winners, and all the top brass from the provincial councils involved were present.
Leinster were quickly into their stride. Following a rush of points from Richie Power (2), Dublin’s Ryan O’Dwyer, Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin – the moment of the game after a spectacular high catch by Tommy Walsh in the lead up – O’Dwyer bagged a goal in the 11th minute to leave Connacht 0-3 to 1-5 behind.
When O’Dwyer netted for a second time in the 25th minute, following a great move started by Shane Dooley and continued by Eoin Larkin, who placed the ball on the edge of the square for the scorer, the difference shot up to 2-12 to 0-5.
Connacht, thanks to back-to-back points from free taker Conor Cooney and Bernard Burke, and then a third one by Cooney in replay to an O’Dwyer effort, left the interval tallies at 2-13 to 0-8 in favour of Leinster.
The winners ploughed on after the restart, adding points per Richie Power and Eoin Larkin to really put up the challenge to the opposition. Connacht hit back for a point from Cooney before Damien Hayes scored a goal after a teasing delivery from wing-back, Joseph Cooney set up a win-or-bust race between the scorer and goalie David Herity. Hayes won, with his flicked effort diverting the ball over the line from close range (2-15 to 1-9).
There was a spell afterwards during which Connacht out-shot the opposition 5-1, but they never looked like saving the game.
Leinster’s best player was Tommy Walsh, while Jackie Tyrrell had many moments of high achievement, as did Michael Rice, Richie Power, Shane Dooley, Paul Murphy and Joe Bergin.
Scorers: Leinster – Richie Power (0-10, eight frees, one 65); Ryan O’Dwyer (2-2); Shane Dooley (0-3); Joe Bergin, Eoin Larkin (0-2 each). Connacht – Conor Cooney (0-9, eight frees); Damien Hayes (1-1); Bernard Burke (0-3); Iarla Tannian, David Burke (0-1 each).
Leinster (key: K = Kilkenny; D = Dublin; W = Wexford; O = Offaly; Wm = Westmeath) – Gary Maguire (D), Paul Murphy (K), Keith Rossiter (W), Jackie Tyrrell, capt (K), Tommy Walsh (K), Niall Corcoran (D), Rory Hanniffy (O), Michael Rice (K), Michael Fennelly (K), Richie Power (K), Joe Bergin (O), Eoin Larkin (K), Shane Dooley (O), Ryan O’Dwyer (D), T.J. Reid (K). Subs – David Herity (K) for Maguire ht; Brendan Murtagh (Westmeath) for O’Dwyer 48th min; Paul Ryan (D) for Reid 49th min; Rory Jacob (W) for Dooley 61st min; David Kenny for N. Corcoran 61st min.
Connacht – Jamie Ryan, Padraig Shiel, David Collins, Ger O’Halloran, Niall Donoghue, Fergal Moore, Joseph Cooney, Aidan Harte, Jason Grealish, Johnny Coen, Conor Cooney, Iarla Tannian, Bernard Burke, Barry Daly, David Burke. Subs – Paul Gordon for Grealish 33rd min; Damien Hayes for Coen ht; James Regan for Tannian 41st min; Davy Glennon for B Daly 47th min.
Referee – C. Lyons (Cork).