Offaly’s minor footballers took full advantage of a very poor Kilkenny team last Friday night in Ballyragget and opened their Leinster championship with a fifty one point victory under lights.
The Offaly management team of John Ryan, Ger Keyes and John Murray will have learned very little about their players over this hour since Kilkenny were unable to compete physically, or to execute even the most basic skills of the game.
The trio could have no complaints with the work ethic or the application shown by Offaly however as this was a professional job from start to finish. Corner forward Richie Reynolds opened the scoring with a goal from a ground shot after Peter Cunningham’s initial attempt was blocked, and that was followed up by two well taken scores from Joe Maher. The Ferbane centre forward went on to score thirteen points, ten in the first half.
A badly taken 45 from Peter Cunningham after eight minutes allowed Kilkenny to break down the field and full back Jordan Quinn was punished for standing too far off Michael Kenny, who fielded in behind the Kilcormac/Killoughey player and then produced a great low finish to score Kilkenny’s goal.
However this only served to spur Offaly on to greater efforts and the remainder of the half was nothing only one way traffic. Offaly went on to lead by 3-16 to 1-0 at half time, Cunningham and Johnny Kavanagh scoring the other two goals while Gracefield full forward Shane Lawless was a constant threat at full forward and a great outlet for long deliveries.
There was no let up in the second half either as Ciarán Cahill opened the scoring with a point within a minute. Almost immediately Offaly had a fourth goal, this time coming from Shane Lawless, after Joe Maher provided the chance with a good run through the middle.
Defensively Offaly seemed very motivated to keep Kilkenny off the scoresheet and their half back line of Brian Grehan, Eoin Carroll and Luke Kelly were utterly dominant, winning any ball that came that far down the field. Maher, Cunningham and Kavanagh continued to find the target throughout the half and then in the closing stages Offaly’s killer instinct came to the fore. The last three Offaly scores were goals as Richie Reynolds and Shane Lawless each completed their hat-tricks, and in doing so rounded off a complete team performance during which five of the seven starting forwards scored at least seven points.
OFFALY: Conor Clancy; Aaron O’Connell, Jordan Quinn, Darragh Corbett; Eoin Carroll, Luke Kelly, Brian Grehan; Ciarán Cahill (0-1), Conor McNamee (0-2); Peter Cunningham (1-8, 0-4f), Joe Maher (0-13, 0-4f), Mark Kirwan (0-1); Johnny Kavanagh (1-4, 0-1f), Shane Lawless (3-0), Richie Reynolds (3-0). Subs.: Niall Dempsey (0-1) for Kirwan, Seán Moriarty for O’Connell, Rúairí McNamee for Lawless (blood), Rúairí McNamee for Kavanagh
KILKENNY: Aaron Doherty; Barry Hennessy, Darren Knox, Thomas Carroll; Jason Byrne, Eoin Brennan, James Tyrrell; Padraig Ó’Fearghaill, Cormac Fleming; David Kinsella, Mark Aylward, James Callanan; Paul Coss, Michael Kenny (1-0), Ronan Moriarty. Subs.: Aaron O’Neill for Kinsella, Chris Buggy for Hennessy, Ultan Walsh for Callanan, James Rafter for Doherty, Eoin Curtis for Callanan, Eoin Purcell for O’Fearghall
REFEREE: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)