Kilkenny steamroll Offaly with ruthless efficiency in a 26-point hammering
Brian Cody’s side show no mercy to Offaly, whose stock has never been lower
Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly and James Rigney of Offaly. Photograph: Inpho
KILKENNY 5-32 OFFALY 1-18 In the tunnel leading from the Offaly dressing room to their bus, a young lad stood with his father long after the final whistle. The beating had been apocalyptic, the misery relentless.
Yet there he stood, a 10-year-old holding his hand out for each passing Offaly player to shake. Any that he asked to stop for a photo did so, embarrassed and all as they were. As long as you wear a county jersey, you’re still a hero to somebody.
Brian Carroll stood a few yards away and started wrapping words around the place they’re in now. You’d think it would go without saying that a 26-point beating was the worst he’d suffered at Kilkenny’s hands but we had to go away afterwards and check, just to be sure. It was, but only by three points more than the 2005 edition.
Carroll had a terrific game on Saturday night – only he and goalkeeper James Dempsey distinguished themselves in any way – but his 1-10 total got washed out to sea as the tide overwhelmed them.
In 13 seasons playing for Offaly, Carroll has been to a Leinster final only once. “It’s harder and harder to go to the well,” he sighed. “I won’t lie.”
Offaly came to contain, with Kevin Connolly dropping back as a nominal sweeper from the start. However the idea worked in theory, in practise Connolly was lost. The flow of ball to the Kilkenny forward line was never staunched and in fact the most glaring impact it had on the game was to free up Paul Murphy in the Kilkenny defence.
Bigger questionsBut this was the sort of implosion that pushes bigger questions across the table than the worth of a tactical wheeze. Kilkenny were only a point ahead after the opening 10 minutes but they had that parlayed into a 14-point lead by the 22nd. They rattled up 2-8 in those 12 minutes and drew two top-class saves from Dempsey in the Offaly goal.
Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin, Walter Walsh and TJ Reid filled their boots and calmly put the night well beyond Offaly’s reach. By half-time Kilkenny had already 2-22 on the board – more than they managed in 70 minutes of any of their games last year. Offaly were looking around for a hole that might swallow them up.
“Offaly have way bigger problems at the moment than who we’re going to play in the qualifiers,” said Carroll, sap rising as he spoke. “And we’re going to have to look at it for the future or there will be no future for Offaly hurling. There’s no point saying otherwise – we’re light years behind in terms of underage development, in terms of facilities . . . .
“If we want to get back to where we want to be, Offaly are going to have to have a serious look at the future, put serious money into development . . . . . We need to put the money into underage structure and do some serious coaching – not just pay it lip service.
Absolute upheaval“We need to look at what other counties have done. We beat Kilkenny in the minor in 2000 and it brought about absolute upheaval in Kilkenny. They had won nine Leinsters in a row and we beat them one time and it made them change absolutely everything. They’re bearing the fruits of that. Same in Clare. Same in Laois, where they’ve made huge strides on the back of their Setanta programme. You have to look at the other counties.”
Kilkenny won’t give them a backward glance. Brian Cody wouldn’t allow such frippery. With just 28 minutes gone on Saturday night, he whipped championship debutant Brian Kennedy off and replaced him with Kieran Bergin. Kennedy had been having his troubles with Carroll right enough but Kilkenny were 2-15 to 0-6 up at the time. Made no difference to Cody.
“Obviously the sheer intensity can tend to drop,” he said afterwards of a second half during which his side outscored Offaly by 3-10 to 1-12. “But what’s important from the players’ point of view is that they’re fighting for a place. You have fellas on the line itching to get in there and it’s a question of keeping your standards up.”
The rest of the night was about odds and sods really. Tommy Walsh came off the bench to easily the biggest roar from the crowd and was given a 20-minute run in the forwards. Three times he shot at goal, three times he struck a wide. So is Tommy a forward now? “Tommy is a . . . hurler,” smiled Cody.
TJ Reid went off with a bang on the side of the knee but word yesterday was that he’d be in good shape for the Galway game in a fortnight. As for Offaly, the very concept of being in good shape seems further away than ever right now. KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy (0-1), JJ Delaney, B Kennedy; P Walsh, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; L Ryan (0-2), R Hogan (0-3); W Walsh (0-4), M Fennelly (0-3), TJ Reid (0-6, 0-2 frees); Colin Fennelly (1-6), Mark Kelly (2-0), Eoin Larkin (2-4). Subs: K Joyce for Kennedy (28 mins); T Walsh for C Fennelly ( 51 mins), B Hogan for P Walsh (51), A Fogarty (0-3) for Reid (57 mins), JJ Farrell for M Fennelly ( 61 mins). OFFALY: J Dempsey; N Wynne, R Hanniffy (0-1), J Rigney; B Harding, D Morkan, C Parlon (0-1); C Mahon (0-1), S Ryan (0-1); J Bergin (0-1), D Currams (0-1), P Geraghty; K Connolly, S Dooley (0-1), B Carroll (1-10, 0-5 frees). Subs: C McDonald for Rigney ( 27 mins), T Geraghty for P Geraghty (ht), S Quirke (0-1) for Connolly (ht), G Healion for Harding ( 53 mins), Ciarán Slevin for Bergin ( 62 mins). Referee: J Owens (Wexford)