Hapless Connacht outfit fail to raise a gallopFebruary 23, 2012 - 8:00am
Alan Dooley in Markievicz Park
AN outclassed Connacht side were put to the sword by a well drilled Ulster outfit at a sparsely attended Markievicz Park, Sligo on Sunday afternoon, as the M. Donnelly Inter-provincial Football Championship made a low key return to the GAA calendar after a two year absence.
Joe Kernan’s side were indeed hot favourites to progress to this weekend’s final, but the ease with which they overpowered this Connacht side, one which granted was assembled at very short notice and was missing several of the provinces’ top players, was both disappointing and alarming.
Galway were represented by Moycullen’s Gareth Bradshaw and Killererin’s Nicky Joyce in the starting line-up, with full back Finian Hanley a big loss having been a late withdrawal. Thomas Flynn and Paul Conroy both saw second-half action as substitutes but neither could turn the tide of a contest that was as good as over by the 23rd minute.
Bradshaw and Joyce were involved in any decent Connacht offerings in the opening 15 minutes as Bradshaw roamed forward from right half back to good effect, linking well with Mayo’s Conor Mortimer to earn a free to level matters after Donegal’s Rory Kavanagh had opened the scoring.
Joyce also won a free which Roscommon’s Donie Shine unfortunately floated wide, but the warning bells had already sounded for the Connacht defence as early as the first minute when Down’s Mark Poland rattled the crossbar with the goal at his mercy. Tyrone’s Martin Penrose notched his first free as Bradshaw picked up an early booking, but Mortimer’s free had the sides level with ten minutes gone.
In the 25 minutes of the half that followed, though, Ulster added a further 2-8 to the dodgy scoreboard that had somehow misplaced the number six, while Connacht struggled desperately to add an extra trio of points to their tally. While Ulster were cohesive and smart in possession, Connacht were too often ponderous when a quick ball in would have caused Ulster more headaches.
Derry’s Conleith Gilligan had pushed Ulster ahead once more with a right footed effort, and the resultant Connacht kickout was snaffled by Tyrone’s Peter Harte. A quick exchange of hand passes with Poland exposed a gaping hole in the Connacht rearguard and Harte duly stuck the ball in the bottom corner.
Though Connacht replied with a close in Joyce free when he was denied a goal scoring chance, Tyrone’s Owen Mulligan hit back with a beauty from the right corner before then setting up Poland for Ulster’s second goal with a raking long ball from out the field. Mulligan was popping up all over the field to good effect and his county colleague Harte soon made it 2-5 to 0-3 with another quality score.
The dismal crowd of roughly 200 must have wondered why they had even bothered when Penrose stretched the lead further, before finally Mortimer managed to register Connacht’s first point from play, admittedly a fine effort in the 27th minute; again the result of quick, accurate delivery which was in such short supply.
Four points in quick succession from Down’s Dan Gordon, Antrim’s James Loughrey, Penrose, and Harte, bringing their total number of scorers to a staggering eight, had Ulster soon well and truly out of sight before Mortimer added his third free of the half as a scant riposte before the interval arrived.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.