Cork fail to hit the heights as they see off Offaly in Tullamore

Pat Horgan scores 1-10 for Rebels with his goal marking a turning point in the contest

Cork's Brian Hayes scores a goal despite the attempts of Offaly's Ben Conneely to block him during the All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final at Glenisk O'Connor Park in Tullamore. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final: Offaly 3-19 Cork 4-25

Shortly after throw-in, Offaly full back Ciarán Burke welcomed Cork’s Alan Connolly back to Tullamore with a thundering shoulder.

Connolly struck a hat-trick when Cork previously visited O’Connor Park in the National League and the Rebels ran riot that day, scoring 5-28.

The good money, apparently, was on them doing something similar again to advance confidently through to an All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin next weekend.

They got through in fairness but it wasn’t a performance to enhance their All-Ireland credentials, with Burke laying down an early marker that was picked up on throughout the Offaly team.


A clear turning point arrived at the beginning of the third quarter when Offaly, still bathed in the afterglow of their Joe McDonagh Cup triumph, were just six points behind and through on goal.

Oisín Kelly had already struck a goal but couldn’t grab another as goalkeeper Patrick Collins came to Cork’s rescue. A minute or so late, Pat Horgan scored a superb goal for Cork at the other end of the field, dovetailing with Brian Hayes and shortening his hurl to get the shot away from close range.

From almost being a three-point game, now nine points separated the sides, 3-21 to 1-18, and it turned out to be the defining period of the game as Cork kicked on from there to lead by 15 points at one stage.

Offaly, to their credit, simply refused to relent with 16,212 watching on and pulled back stoppage-time goals from Jack Clancy and the excellent Killian Sampson. All of which left just nine points between the teams at full-time, precisely half what the bookies had predicted.

It didn’t flatter Offaly either as from the moment Burke laid down the terms of engagement with Connolly early on, they looked a team hell-bent on not being swept aside.

Connolly was eventually taken off, without a score, though 1-10 from Horgan, 1-4 from Shane Barrett and goals elsewhere from Hayes and Robbie O’Flynn all added up to a decent haul which nudged Cork to victory.

“Obviously it was a disappointing performance from our side of things,” said Cork manager Pat Ryan. “There were some good passages of hurling and we opened them up at times but it was just very sloppy – not breaking the tackle enough, throwing balls away and we just didn’t work hard enough on what we should have done.”

Barrett was Cork’s standout player in the first half and 1-3 in that period, along with an early Hayes goal, left them 2-10 to 0-9 ahead with 22 minutes on the clock.

Offaly gave their fans plenty of exciting moments in the half too, Dan Bourke picking off back-to-back points and scores from Eoghan Cahill and Sampson following turnovers in the Cork defence.

Horgan, chasing down TJ Reid as the championship’s all-time top scorer, closed out the half with three points from frees to leave Cork 2-15 to 0-13 up.

Offaly were brighter again in the third quarter and Kelly’s volleyed goal, after an assist from Sampson, ignited them. Charlie Mitchell and Brian Duignan added points and for a brief period the gap was down to just five. Cork rallied, though, and advanced, just about as everyone predicted.

OFFALY: M Troy; B Conneely, C Burke, C King; D King (0-1), C Kiely (0-1), D Shirley; J Sampson (0-1), R Ravenhill; K Sampson (1-3), B Duignan (0-5, 0-3f), O Kelly (1-0); C Mitchell (0-1), E Cahill (0-5, 0-4f), D Bourke (0-2).

Subs: E Kelly for Cahill (h/t); J Clancy (1-0) for Ravenhill (47 mins); S Bourke for Kelly (61); D Maher for Kiely (64); L Watkins for D Bourke (70).

CORK: P Collins; N O’Leary (0-1), E Downey, S O’Donoghue; T O’Mahony, R Downey, M Coleman; C Joyce, D Fitzgibbon (0-3); D Dalton (0-4, 0-1f), S Barrett (1-4), C Lehane (0-1); P Horgan (1-10, 0-7f, 0-2 65), A Connolly, B Hayes (1-1).

Subs: S Kingston (0-1) for Connolly (44 mins); L Meade for Barrett (55); P Power for Lehane (63); J O’Connor for Hayes (64); R O’Flynn (1-0) for Dalton (67).

Referee: S Stack (Dublin).