Offaly bounced back well from their defeat against Dublin in their previous group game to record a deserved eight point win over Carlow in St Brendan’s Park which leaves them on the cusp of a place in the All Ireland Junior A Final.
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Leading by three points, 0-5 to 0-2 at half-time, Offaly built their advantage in the second-half and were eight points clear entering the closing minutes. Carlow briefly threatened a revival with a late goal from from Ciara Quirke but Catherine Kenna steadied any Offaly nerves when she found the back of the net three minutes from time to round out the win.
Defensively Offaly were excellent on the day lead by the dominant and ever dependable Kate Aherne at full-back who has been one of Offaly’s most consistent players this year. Edel O’Meara and Lauren Keenaghan returned to solidify the half-back line while Mary Molloy and Catherine Kenna had the upper hand in midfield.
Up front Michelle Davis, Grainne Egan and Helen Dolan carried the scoring threat with Christine Cleary again putting in an impressive shift.
With a strong wind blowing across the field and with intermittent squally showers blowing in, conditions were difficult for hurling.
Carlow opened the scoring after five minutes through Laura Regan but they wouldn’t score again until just before half-time by which stage Offaly had opened up a four point lead.
Michelle Davis launched over two ‘45s before she hit Offaly’s first point from play with 16 minutes on the clock. Grainee Egan came close to finding the back of the net soon after but her shot was saved by Jeanne Joyce. Michelle Davis dispatched the resulting ‘45 with Grainne Egan adding the fifth point with 22 minutes on the clock.
Ciara Quirke, Carlow’s best player on the day, pulled one back before the break but Offaly went to the interval with a three point lead.
That became five soon after half-time courtesy of two more Michelle Davis points before Quirke added her second and Carlow’s third to keep her side in touch.
Offaly however were now well in control and two points from Grainne Egan, both set up by Helen Dolan, extended the home side’s lead to six before Dolan got her name on the scoresheet with a well taken point.
Ciara Quirke responded for Carlow but further points from the Shinrone duo of Michelle Davis and Grainne Egan put Offaly 0-12 to 0-4 ahead entering the last eight minutes.
Ciara Quirke’s one woman crusade to keep Carlow in the game continued with a goal five minutes from time to give the visitors a brief glimmer of hope but that hope did not last long as Catherine Kenna responded instantly with a goal for Offaly to wrap up the win.
Offaly are now on the cusp of qualification for the All Ireland Final with one round of games to go.
Offaly face Cavan, who have already lost their first two games to Carlow and Dublin, while Carlow face Dublin. If Offaly and Dublin both win, they will meet for the third time this year, this time in the All Ireland Final
Scorers: Michelle Davis 0-7 (0-3 ‘45); Grainne Egan 0-3 (0-1f); Catherine Kenna 1-0; Helen Dolan 0-2. Carlow: Ciara Quirke 1-3 (0-1f); Laura Regan 0-1.
Offaly: Shauna Carroll; Laura Hogan, Kate Aherne, Aine Whelan; Lauren Keenaghan, Edel O’Meara, Claire Camon; Mary Molloy, Catherine Kenna; Christine Cleary, Michelle Davis, Helen Dolan; Valerie Maher, Grainne Egan, Rebecca Hoctor.
Carlow: Jeanne Joyce; Sarah Jane Burke, Marian Doyle, Margaret Coady; Rebecca O’Dwyer, Eileen Murphy, Pamela Whelan; Ciara Mullins, Tara Wilson; Shauna Barcoe, Lisa Abbey, Ciara Quirke; Lauren Regan, Mary Coady, Niamh Canavan.