New Ulster boss Joe Kernan saw his team fall at the first hurdle when Munster proved their masters in Saturday’s Martin Donnelly inter-provincial semi-final tie at Fermoy.
It was a setback for Kernan who had hoped to enhance Ulster’s dominance of the competition spanning the last two decades in his first season in charge.
Yet despite the best efforts of his side, they were unable to produce the strong finish they needed to overcome their opponents who were back-boned by a tranche of players from provincial champions Cork, the majority of whom played key roles in their victory.
In atrocious conditions – heavy rain fell throughout – Munster’s stamina allied to an opportunist 41st minute goal from Cork midfielder Nicholas Murphy carried them through to the decider.
Yet it had looked promising for Ulster in the early stages when Monaghan’s Tommy Freeman was on target from two ‘frees.
Cork ace, Donncha O’Connor, stepped up to the mark for Munster with three points before half-time by which stage Armagh’s Brian Mallon had fired over another Ulster point to leave the sides deadlocked at 0-3 each.
And it looked even more promising for Ulster when Derry’s Eoin Bradley converted a free but then when Murphy drilled in his superb goal from all of 25 metres, Munster acquired fresh self-belief.
Even through Tyrone’s Stephen O'Neill, who made his comeback from retirement for the All Ireland final win over Kerry, clipped over a free in the 50th minute to keep Ulster afloat, Munster still retained their shape and composure.
Daniel Goulding pointed a free in the 52nd minute and his Cork teammate O'Connor crowned a fine personal contribution with his fourth point from a free-kick in the 60th minute to nudge his team three points in front.
Munster lived dangerously on a couple of occasions but Ulster were still unable to get back on track.
Scorers: Munster: D O'Connor 0-4 (0-3f), N Murphy 1-0, D Goulding 0-1 (0-1f).
Ulster: T Freeman 0-2 (0-2f), B Mallon, E Bradley (0-1f), S O'Neill (0-1f) 0-1 each.
MUNSTER: P Fitzgerald (Tipperary); D Duggan (Cork), J McCarthy (Limerick), P Reidy (Kerry); T Ó'Sé (Kerry), S Lavin (Limerick), T O'Gorman (Waterford); J Galvin (Limerick), N Murphy (Cork); P Kelly (Cork), D O'Connor (Cork), M O'Gorman (Waterford); D Goulding (Cork), M Cussen (Cork), I Ryan (Limerick). Subs: A O'Connor (Cork) for Kelly (38mins), L O'Líonáin (Waterford) for M O'Gorman (55), M Crowley (Limerick) for Ryan (60).
ULSTER: J Devine (Tyrone); F Moriarty (Armagh), V Corey (Monaghan), K Lacey (Donegal); D Harte (Tyrone), C Gormley (Tyrone), A Carr (Down); D Clerkin (Monaghan), R Kavanagh (Donegal); B Dooher (Tyrone), B Mallon (Armagh), D Hughes (Down); S Johnston (Cavan), E Bradley (Derry), T Freeman (Monaghan). Subs: K Toner (Armagh) for Johnston (35 mins), S O'Neill (Tyrone) for Bradley (47), E Lennon (Monaghan) for Carr (47), R Flanagan (Cavan) for Hughes (49), R Woods (Monaghan) for Kavanagh (54).
Referee: Syl Doyle (Wexford).