Interprovincial SHC Final (Irish Independent Report - Vincent Hogan)
HOME sounds rippled through the woods of Canton last night as Munster's hurlers secured their 44th inter-provincial crown in an epic encounter on the fringes of south Boston.
The crusade to resuscitate the old Railway Cup caught tangible energy here as an injury-time Ollie Moran goal squeezed out the Leinster challenge in front of 3,000 palpably enthralled witnesses.
It was just the authentic contest hoped for, throbbing with industry and competitive aggression, to raise hopes that this dwindled competition now bank-rolled by businessman Martin Donnelly may have a future worth the fight.
As Munster captain John Gardiner collected the trophy, he remarked "This means an awful lot to us. We knew the game would be hell for leather, but we wanted it really badly. You take great pride in representing your county but this just goes to another level."
A faint edge even ran through the preliminaries.
At roughly the time Leinster clambered onto a canary yellow schoolbus in downtown Boston for the journey to Canton, Munster were sitting down to a pasta lunch. The Cork way was threaded into their preparation.
And it ran beyond food. Since arriving in the city, Donal Óg Cusack led a daily delegation to the hotel gym to the merriment (and incredulity) of some more dilettante types. While most enjoyed the hospitality of the city's many Irish pubs on Friday, the Cork boys took themselves to the Garden to watch the Celtics.
Little things, but pointed.
Others moved to lighter rhythms. Yet, it would be wrong to depict the collective psyche as being in any way threadbare. This was a game fought utterly without equivocation.
Trailing by four points just six minutes into the game, John Conran's charges came to life, rattling home seven of the next nine scores, including a simple goal from Eddie Brennan after James Young's delivery caught Eoin Murphy and Paul Curran with crossed wires.
On the half-hour, Davy Fitzgerald saved bravely at the feet of Gary Hanniffy, ensuring that Leinster's half-time lead was the minimum (1-9 to 0-11), but the Clareman could not resume having injured himself in the challenge.
The pace of the Leinster attack was causing Munster difficulty and it didn't constitute much of a surprise when they resumed with what looked a telling shell-burst of scores.
Two frees from Young book-ended a smart Brian Carroll goal after Eddie Brennan drew the cover. With just over half an hour remaining, Leinster led by six.
It was then the Munster challenge began to swell. Moran was hurling up a storm at midfield while the introduction of Seamus Butler and Tony Carmody brought presence to an attack that had, hitherto, looked over-dependent on Ben O'Connor's frees.
Eight unanswered points fell to Munster over the next 17 minutes, three from Carmody, who began to unhinge the Leinster half-back line with his bustling power and willingness to put a hand up where timber flew.
The game wasn't gentle now, Moran collecting a booking for a frontal hit on Brendan Murphy that resulted in the Offaly man being helped ashore like a runner in Pamplona who'd fallen beneath the hooves.
From the resultant free, Young stopped the rot for Leinster. But that didn't tilt the momentum.
Munster were ablaze now, Niall Gilligan collecting the subsequent puck-out and piling through on James McGarry's goal only to have the sliotar thieved off his hurl by JJ Delaney in a moment of gorgeous stealth that would have left Fagin swooning in Victorian London.
This was now a throwback to the sanctified days when Railway Cups were fought over with the solemnity of great wars.
Nine minutes from time, Butler lobbed a Munster point virtually from the car-park and the whoops could have been rising from Semple Stadium on a Munster final Sunday.
Yet, as the clock ticked, Leinster rallied again. Young launched two points to leave the sides level entering the closing five minutes. All pretence of exhibition had long since absconded.
Gardiner made a breathtaking block on a goal-bound Brennan; Declan Ruth replicated the act on Gilligan at the far end. The tempo was unyielding.
Then the kill-shot. Just seconds into injury-time, Moran kicked the sliotar home after a goalmouth scramble following McGarry's startling save from Carmody. It was over. Seconds later, Daragh Ryan betrayed Leinster's mood with a fluffed clearance and Gilligan closed the audit with a smart point.
Victorious Munster manager, Joe O'Leary, declared afterwards: "It was a great game, a game that had all that is good about hurling. Some fantastic scores and a super finish. We're absolutely delighted."
Conran admitted that Carmody's arrival was the catalyst for change. "He made a huge difference" said the Wexford man. "When he went in, we didn't seem to be able to hack it from there. We can have no complaints."
SCORERS - Munster : B O'Connor 0-7 (6f); O Moran 1-2; P Kelly 0-4f; N Gilligan and T Carmody 0-3 each; S Butler and D MacMahon 0-1 each. Leinster: J Young 0-7 (6f); E Brennan 1-2; B Carroll 1-1; T Walsh 0-2; R Power and G Hanniffy 0-1 each.
MUNSTER - D Fitzgerald (Clare); E Murphy (Waterford), P Curran (Tipperary), P Mulcahy (Cork); J Gardiner (Cork), R Curran (Cork), D Fitzgerald (Tipperary); O Moran (Limerick), P Kelly (Tipperary); E Kelly (Waterford), S Prendergast (Waterford), D MacMahon (Clare); B O'Connor (Cork), M Webster (Tipperary), N Gilligan (Clare). Subs: A Markham (Clare) for Murphy (30), D Og Cusack (Cork) for Fitzgerald (half-time); S Butler (Tipperary) for half-time, T Carmody (Clare) for Prendergast (45).
LEINSTER - J McGarry (Kilkenny); R Mullally (Kilkenny), D Ryan (Wexford), J Tennyson (Kilkenny); R Hanniffy (Offaly), D Ruth (Wexford), JJ Delaney (Kilkenny); J Ryall (Kilkenny), B Barry (Kilkenny); T Walsh (Kilkenny), R Power (Kilkenny), J Young (Laois); E Brennan (Kilkenny), G Hanniffy (Offaly), B Carroll (Offaly). Subs: B Murphy for Ryall (45), J Hoyne (Kilkenny) for Power (55), M Comerford (Kilkenny) for Murphy (57), D Lyng (Wexford) for Barry (63), E Quigley (Wexford) for Carroll (68).
REF - M Haverty (Galway).