Offaly 3-25 Meath 3-9
Even with an injury-ravaged panel, Offaly made a mockery of their Christy Ring Cup status in Navan to shoot to the head of Division 2A with a big opening round win.
Nick Weir’s Meath were the Joe McDonagh Cup team on show, and they also possessed home advantage, but, after burning brightly early on, they were soon snuffed out.
The Royals led by a point at the first water break, outscoring Offaly by 0-3 to 0-1 in the preceding minutes, but the stoppage appeared to sap all of their momentum.
When play restarted it was Offaly who jumped onto the front foot, reeling off 1-11 without reply to effectively kill the contest by half-time.
Oisín Kelly and Adrian Hynes scored the first-half goals for an Offaly side that passed the ball up through the lines with precision, Hynes's goal particularly well worked.
It told a tale of their dominance that they led 2-13 to 0-7 at the break despite firing 11 wides, and they were full value for their 17-point lead mid way through the second half after Shane Kinsella’s tap in goal.
The chief downside for manager Michael Fennelly was the fresh injuries sustained by a number of players, Joey Keenaghan, Paddy Delaney and Damien Egan.
“We’ve had a few injuries there, we’ve a potential for three bad injuries and I don’t know are there other niggles in terms of muscular issues,” said Kilkenny great Fennelly. “The three injuries are more joint issues – knee, ankle and another ankle injury maybe, so they could be gone for the league if not the season, to be honest.
"We have a few players like Colm Gath who picked up something during the week. Peter Geraghty twisted his ankle two weeks ago and there's one or two more lads still recovering as well. So the depth of the squad will be challenged over the coming weeks."
Meath pulled back second-half goals from James Kelly, Mark O'Sullivan and Jack McGowan but still never looked like winning.
Offaly had a dozen different scorers in total including the ultra-experienced Shane Dooley who came on late on.
Free-taker Eoghan Cahill consistently punished Meath and converted 0-12 overall including two sumptuous line balls in the second-half.
The 16-point win leaves Offaly sitting pretty on scoring difference at the head of Division 2A, though Kerry, who travel to Tullamore next weekend, and Carlow had big wins too.
Free-taker Marty Kavanagh sniped 2-9 for Carlow in their 3-19 to 0-17 defeat of Wicklow, with Ross Smithers grabbing their third goal. The hosts led 0-13 to 0-8 at half-time with both of Kavanagh's goals coming from play in the second half.
Kerry, beaten in last December’s Joe McDonagh Cup final, came from behind to beat Down 4-18 to 0-19 in Tralee, Maurice O’Connor striking two of the Kingdom’s goals.
OFFALY: C Clancy; J Keenaghan, C Burke, P Delaney; B Watkins (0-1), B Conneely (0-1), K Sampson; L Fox (0-1, free), R Ravenhill (0-1); S Kinsella (1-0), L Langton (0-5), B Duignan (0-2); O Kelly (1-0), A Hynes (1-0), E Cahill (0-12, eight frees , two sidelines).
Subs: D Egan for Keenaghan (6 mins), P Rigney for Delaney (27-f/t), J Murphy for Kinsella (51-f/t), J Sampson (0-1) for Duignan (60), E Kelly for Fox (63), A Treacy for K Sampson (64), S Dooley (0-1, one free) for Cahill, D Nally for Hynes (both 68).
MEATH: C Ennis; S Geraghty, B McGowan, S Whitty; J Toher, D Kelly, K Keoghan; P Conneely, P O'Hanrahan (0-4, three frees); D McGowan, D Healy, A Douglas (0-2); A Gannon (0-1), M O'Sullivan (1-0), G McGowan (0-1).
Subs: J Regan (0-1) for Healy 30, J Kelly (1-0) for D McGowan (h/t), S Morris for O'Hanrahan (h/t), M Burke for B McGowan (45), J McGowan (1-0) for Conneely (51), J Walsh for Geraghty, S Brennan for Kelly (both 60).
Referee: D Hughes (Kilkenny).