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Munster are pushed to limit

Ulster 1-12 Munster 2-14

By John Campbell

A defiant Ulster side stretched Munster to the limit in this absorbing Martin Donnelly inter-provincial hurling championship semi-final at Fermoy before bowing the knee in the end.

Even though Munster scored two early goals from Eoin Kelly and Seamus Callinan, Ulster never lost heart and showed superb spirit throughout against a side laced with experience and craft.

It was Ulster captain Paul Braniff who set down the template for his side and his leadership and accuracy kept the northern province in touch even when Munster threatened to take total control.

Indeed, Braniff’s early flurry of scores ensured that Ulster remained in touch at 2-5 to 0-5 at the half-way stage.

In the opening phase of the second-half Munster burst from the blocks to move 2-8 to 0-6 ahead and Ulster looked extremely vulnerable. But they mounted a powerful rally to rock their opponents back on their heels. With the defence, in which Antrim duo Aaron Graffin and Neil McGarry in superb form, in much more resilient mood and Braniff continuing to add to his tally up front – he ended with an eight-point haul - the hosts were clearly discomfited.

And when Shane McNaughton added fuel to the Ulster fire by whipping in a splendid 45th minute goal, visions of a shock began to form with the visitors just one point in arrears.

But it was Munster who regained the initiative to close the game out in a formidable fashion. Tony Carmody and Brian O'Connell struck two points apiece and Munster powered ahead on the scoreboard eventually winning by a five-point margin to book their ticket into next Saturday's final against Leinster.

Munster scorers: E Kelly 1-5 (1-1 '65, 0-4f), S Callanan (1-2), T Carmody, B O'Connell 0-2 each, N Gilligan, C Naughton, P Kelly (0-1) each.

Ulster scorers: P Braniff 0-8 (0-6f, 0-1 '65), S McNaughton (1-0), K Stewart, K Hinphey, K McKeegan, P Shields (0-1 each).

MUNSTER: B Cummins (Tipperary); C O'Brien (Tipperary), P Curran (Tipperary), S Hickey (Limerick); B Bugler (Clare), G Quinn (Clare), D Fanning (Tipperary); B O'Connell (Clare), T Kenny (Cork); T Carmody (Clare), S Callanan (Tipperary), C Naughton (Cork); A O'Shaughnessy (Limerick), E Kelly (Waterford), N Gilligan (Clare).

Subs: B O'Connor (Cork) for Gilligan (25 mins), P Kelly (Tipperary) for Naughton (47), B Corry (Cork) for Callanan (55), D O'Grady (Limerick) for O'Connell (60).

ULSTER: R McGarry (Antrim); A Graffin (Antrim), N McGarry (Antrim), M Kettle (Antrim); G Clarke (Down), L Hinphey (Derry), J Campbell (Antrim); A Savage (Down), K McKeegan (Antrim); K Stewart (Antrim), K Hinphey (Derry), P Braniff (Down); S McNaughton (Antrim), B McGourty (Down), P Shields (Antrim).

Subs: N McManus (Antrim) for Kettle (15 mins), P McCormack (Armagh) for McGourty (36), M Craig (Derry) for McKeegan (48).

Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois)

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