High-scoring Kilcormac-Killoughey leave Birr out in the cold in Offaly SHC final

Champions defend their title impressively after taking an early grip on the contest

Kilcormac-Killoughey 1-21 Birr 1-14: The intuition that a high scoring match would suit defending champions Kilcormac was borne out in yesterday's Offaly hurling final, as Kilcormac ran out comfortable winners having dictated the scoreboard for much of the afternoon.

Birr put up a struggle but were undone by some wasteful first-half finishing and a late scoring surge by their opponents after the arrival of Simon Whelahan, four-times All-Ireland medallist and the last survivor of their initial win in 1995, had inspired a last-quarter revival.

Kilcormac captain Ciarán Slevin led the scoring effort with his impeccable dead-ball shooting and put the team well in command by the break having contributed eight from frees and a 65 to his team's total of 13.

Live threats
Birr competed well, recovering from a three-point deficit to draw level but they had missed quite a bit: point attempts by Dylan Hayden and Emmet Nolan went wide and short respectively and Paddy Mullins was wide going for goal. Mullins and Hayden were however live threats and both ended with four points from play.


Although Paul Cleary and Rory Hanniffy held tight in the middle of Birr's defence, Kilcormac's economy was relentless and they had goal chances themselves, which they didn't convert. Slevin flighted an early ball in on goal and 'keeper Brian Mullins got to it just ahead of Dan Currams and in the 24th minute Trevor Fletcher, a late replacement for James Gorman, who was resting an injury, snapped at goal when he had the opportunity to make more ground and improve his chances.

But from the 15th minute when Slevin re-established Kilcormac’s lead at 0-4 to 0-3, the champions were never again caught and led all the way home. The big interval lead was built on the accuracy of Slevin’s frees but Currams posed a constant threat.

It took them until the 26th minute to score from play – a point from Conor Mahon – but by the interval the lead was 0-13 to 0-5, boosted by a wounding four-point barrage in the couple of minutes before half-time.

Peter Geraghty pointed after an assist from Currams and after a deft bit of work on the ground from Slevin, Geraghty's twin brother Thomas fired over the last point of the half.

Birr responded well to the situation by taking the three of the first four points of the second half, having brought in captain Michael Verney, returning from injury, for Nolan.

Hayden started in the full forwards but moved around as the match unfolded and did some good work in a more withdrawn role, getting on ball and hitting two nice points from play.

The main prospect of recovery though came with the arrival of Simon Whelahan, who was on the pitch at full forward two minutes when he was on hand to prod home a deflection from Conor Slevin and then point a free to trim the margin to a single score, 1-11 to 0-17.

Kilcormac responded and the match was finally put to bed in the 54th minute when Currams won a ball, conducted a clever one-two with Peter Geraghty and finished to the net for 1-20 to 1-12.

Primary possession
It was a strong display by the champions. Although both sides won their share of primary possession, Kilcormac's marksmanship, especially in the early stages, had allowed them establish a grip they never relinquished.

Danny Owens, their manager, was satisfied afterwards: "We knew coming here today that Birr would mount a challenge and although it took a while before we scored from play I think we were playing well and drawing fouls. Our big motivation was that we didn't want to be known as a one-year team. We're delighted to have won the second."

They have four weeks before they begin the defence of their Leinster crown but it will be a busy wait, as the club is also in the intermediate football and hurling finals.

KILCORMAC-KILLOUGHEY: C Slevin; C Guinan, G Healion, Con Mahon; K Grogan, P Healion, B Leonard (0-1, sideline); K Leonard, D Kilmartin; C Slevin (capt; 0-11, nine frees and a 65), C Mahon (0-2), P Geraghty (0-2, one lineball); T Fletcher (0-1), D Currams (1-1), T Geraghty (0-2). Subs: J Gorman (0-1) for T Fletcher (47 mins), J Geraghty for Leonard (58 mins), K Coyne for Kilmartin (59 mins).
BIRR: B Mullins; B Harding, P Cleary (0-2, frees), C Egan; S Ryan, R Hanniffy, B Watkins; B Whelahan, B Murphy; C Mulrooney, E Nolan, S Lonergan; D Hayden (0-4), P Mullins (0-4), M Dwane (0-2, frees). Subs: M Verney (capt.) for Nolan (half-time), T Bolger for Murphy (37 mins), S Whelahan (1-2, point free) for Dwane (43 mins), C O'Callaghan for Egan (55 mins).
Referee: T Carroll (Kinnitty).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times