Kilkenny pushed all the way by tenacious Offaly
Brian Cody’s side had to knuckle down to secure a passage into the league semi-finals
Offaly’s Ben Conneely is tackled by Ger Aylward of Kilkenny during their Allianz Hurling League quarter-final. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Kilkenny 0-24 Offaly 1-19
Kilkenny were given a major fright when they were forced to dig very deep to edge out Offaly in an enthralling quarter-final at Bord na Mona O’Connor Park on Monday.
Level, 1-19 to 0-22, as the game went into injury time, victory was in sight for Offaly but it was Kilkenny who got the decisive late scores. Firstly TJ Reid edged them in front from a free that he won and then the outstanding Walter Walsh got the closing score.
A relieved Kilkenny owed a debt of gratitude to Reid and Walsh. Reid got 12 of their 24 points, nine from frees while each of Walsh’ five points was a dagger into Offaly’s hearts.
It made for compelling viewing, especially as the second half wore on and the possibility of a shock loomed into focus.
Offaly competed extremely well in the first half and matched Kilkenny in every aspect. The wind was a definite help to them but the home side were committed in everything they did, though there were spells when Kilkenny’s class shone through.
Kilkenny led by 0-3 to 0-1 after eight minutes before points from Shane Kinsella and Cillian Kiely – a spectacular long range one – had Offaly on terms by the 10th minute. It was 0-4 each after 12 minutes and then Kilkenny took over, playing their best hurling of the half. A Walter Walsh point and two from TJ Reid (one free) pushed them three clear and Offaly were hanging on.
They dug very deep, however, got it back to level terms, 0-7 each, by the 23rd minute – Shane Dooley’s 18th minute free drew ironic cheers from the home crowd as it was their first free while Kilkenny had eight up to that point.
Kilkenny were 0-9 to 0-8 ahead when Conor Mahon got in for a 32nd minute goal, doing very well to win a ball that was not his and divert it to the net. With their confidence soaring, Offaly got two of the final three points for a deserved half time lead of 1-10 to 0-10.
In the second half, Kilkenny quickly got four points without reply to lead by 0-14 to 1-11 but the furthest they could get ahead was three points as Offaly fought with everything they had. They almost got there but it was Kilkenny who advanced to the semi-final.
KILKENNY: D Brennan; J Holden, P Walsh, P Deegan; C Delaney, C Buckley, C Browne; R Leahy, O Walsh; L Blanchfield (0-2), TJ Reid (0-12, 9f), J Maher (0-2); G Aylward (0-1), W Walsh (0-5), R Reid.
Subs: L Scanlon for Aylward (40), J Donnelly (0-2) for Walsh (40), L Ryan for Leahy (60), E Morrissey for Browne (64m), A Murphy for R Reid (65).
OFFALY: E Cahill; T Spain, S Gardiner, B Conneely; D O’Toole, D Shortt, P Camon; S Kinsella (0-2), D King (0-1); C Mahon (1-2), C Kiely (0-1), C Egan (0-2); S Dooley (0-8, 5f), J Bergin (0-2), D Currams (0-1).
Subs: P Rigney for Gardiner (47), O Kelly for Kiely (57), D Egan for Kinsella (57), T Geraghty for Egan (66), S Ryan for Rigney (72).
Referee: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).