Offaly get the upper hand on Roscommon to win All-Ireland under-20 title

Faithful supporters enjoy a quality performance on big stage from promising group

Offaly’s Tom Hyland celebrates after the game with his teammates. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Offaly’s Tom Hyland celebrates after the game with his teammates. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Offaly 1-14 Roscommon 1-11

Before the Kerry-Tyrone postponement, Offaly and Roscommon had been allocated just a thousand tickets each for the EirGrid All-Ireland under-20 football final.

Tyrone’s misfortune clearly worked out well for the Faithful because their supporters travelled in their thousands and raised the Croke Park roof at times, sparking off the sight of their inspirational young players in full stride.

Jack Bryant, previously the conqueror of Cork, was Offaly’s gamebreaker again, striking 1-2 and the 50th minute goal that separated the teams and helped seal Offaly’s first title at the grade since 1988.

Yet the player who really got the 10,000 or so Offaly fans up off their seats and in full voice was Cormac Egan, an 18-year-old wonderkid with the potential for great things.

He only scored two points but if he wasn’t scything through Roscommon’s defence - his remarkable solo run before Aaron Kellaghan’s 45th minute point deserved a goal - he was barrelling through tackles and horsing defenders out of his way. And to think he was a Leinster minor finalist, in both codes, only weeks ago.

Kellaghan, son of former county footballer Paschal, was terrific overall and struck four points while Cathal Donoghue took on the responsibility as stand-in skipper and delivered.

Still, he didn’t get to lift the cup as regular captain Kieran Dolan, who’d missed the two previous games with a hamstring injury, was one of just two subs introduced by Offaly manager Declan Kelly and enjoyed that honour.

Roscommon will kick themselves though. They missed a hat full of goal chances, four in the first-half alone. And while Bryant’s goal left them seven points behind, they fought back valiantly to reduce the gap to just two at one stage late on.

Offaly held on, deservedly so, and will have high hopes for many of these under-20 icons.

“Our remit from day one has always been to get players through to the senior squad,” said Kelly. “That’s really what you’re trying to do. No doubt, winning an All-Ireland is something that will probably bring its own challenges too in relation to players and how they handle it. That’s something we actually spoke about this week, that regardless of how the result went, we have to obviously look at that.

“The one thing you’d say to the general public out there is that some of these lads are only 18, 19, or going on 20. If they continue to do the work, you’re probably looking at them maybe as 23-year-olds, in three or so years’ time, realistically, before you’d be thinking they can establish themselves as seniors.”

Kelly, in his fourth year in charge, reported a “calm” dressing-room afterwards though acknowledged that he personally struggled with the emotion of the memorable occasion.

It wasn’t a game to set him at his ease, even if Offaly did lead virtually from pillar to post. The pattern of the hour was for the Leinster champions to push clear, get reeled back in and surge ahead again.

That suited Roscommon to an extent after coming from behind the previous weekend to beat Down in the semi-finals.

They trailed by 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time on this occasion despite failing to convert four separate goal chances; James Fitzpatrick, Darragh Heneghan twice and Daire Cregg all thwarted.

Roscommon captain Colin Walsh picked up Bryant and had a terrific duel. Bryant just about edged it while Conor Lohan had his hands full with the industrious Egan.

The two Offaly forwards were at their best in the third quarter as their team surged 0-13 to 0-7 clear. Bryant was then fed by Keith O’Neill for his goal and the game looked to be up.

Roscommon rallied, typically, and Adam McDermott netted in the 56th minute but it was the goals they didn’t score that they’ll have nightmares about.

Offaly: S O’Toole; L Pearson, T Hyland, A Brazil; F Dempsey, J Furlong, R Egan; E Cullen, M Tynan (0-4, 2f, 1 45); C Flynn, C Donoghue (0-2), O Keenan Martin; C Egan (0-2), J Bryant (1-2), A Keelaghan (0-4, 1m).

Subs: K O’Neill for Keelaghan 48, K Dolan for Brazil 58.

Roscommon: C Carroll; D Gaughan, C Walsh, C Lohan; T Crean, R Fallon, P Gavin; J Lohan, K Doyle; R Dolan, D Cregg (0-5, 3f), J Fitzpatrick; D Heneghan, A McDermott (1-2), B O’Carroll (0-2, 1f).

Subs: C Carthy (0-1) for Fitzpatrick 40-f/t, blood, S Trundle for Crean 40, D Wynne for J Lohan 46, J Doory (0-1) for Dolan 48, J O’Malley for Gaughan 51, E Crawley for Heneghan 54.

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).

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