Offaly hurlers play two challenge matches on hectic weekend

It was a hectic weekend for Offaly’s Senior Hurlers as they played challenge matches on back to back days against Tipperary and Galway as they prepare for the opening round of the Walsh Cup and more importantly the National Hurling League.

It was a hectic weekend for Offaly’s Senior Hurlers as they played challenge matches on back to back days against Tipperary and Galway as they prepare for the opening round of the Walsh Cup and more importantly the National Hurling League.

Tipperary 1-22 Offaly 1-13

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ALTHOUGH they led at half-time by the minimum margin, 1-9 to 0-11, Ollie Baker’s Offaly charges ultimately succumbed to Tipperary in a senior hurling challenge clash at JK Brackens GAA Club Grounds in Templemore on Sunday.

It was Offaly’s second game inside 24 hours as they squared up to reigning Leinster champions Galway the previous day. Tipperary, with Seamus Callanan looking sharp at full forward, led by 0-9 to 0-3 after twenty minutes but Offaly finished the opening half strongly and Shane Dooley’s goal ensured they led at the interval.

During that opening half, Baker and his selectors Mark Corrigan, Stephen Byrne and Alan Cunningham (coach) switched Dooley to centre forward, with Derek Molloy going to mid-field to partner young Lusmagh man Sean Gardiner and Sean Ryan was moved inside to corner forward. Dooley eclipsed Tomas Hamill, while Molloy also became more influential.

Cathal Parlon hoisted over three decent points and his tussle with Shane McGrath was a fascinating one but as the game went on the more influential McGrath became.

Eamonn O’Shea’s Tipperary were far more clinical in the concludinghalf as they outscored the Faithful by 1-11 to 0-4. Shane Bourke, on his ‘home’ pitch, finished their goal with aplomb and but for the reflexes of James Dempsey, Tipp might have added further goals through Bourke and Timmy Hammersley.

Tipp led 1-16 to 1-13 when Shane Dooley missed a free within scoring range and the Premier men closed out the tie with six successive points from Callanan, Noel McGrath, Johnny Ryan, Mikey Heffernan and Hammersley.

Offaly were without their Kilcormac/Killoughey contingent and the likes of David Kenny, Rory Hanniffy, Derek Morkan and Paul Cleary.

K/K face Thurles Sarsfields on Saturday, February 9 in the AIB All-Ireland club semi-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise and none of the Thurles players were on duty for Tipp who introduced no subs even though their bench included familiar names such as Brendan Cummins, Eoin Kelly, Brendan Maher, Conor O’Mahony, Gearoid Ryan and James Woodlock.

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TIPPERARY: Darren Gleeson; Donagh Maher, Paul Curran, John O’Keeffe; Shane McGrath, Tomas Hamill, Paddy Stapleton; Noel McGrath (0-2), Johnny Ryan (0-2); Mikey Heffernan (0-1), Sean Curran (0-3), Adrian Ryan (0-1); Shane Bourke (1-0), Seamus Callanan (0-11, 0-7 frees), Timmy Hammersley (0-2).

OFFALY: James Dempsey; David King, Chris McDonald, Pat Camon; Dermot Mooney, Kevin Brady, Michael Cleary; Sean Gardiner, Sean Ryan; Colin Egan, Derek Molloy, Cathal Parlon 0-3; Shane Dooley (1-7, 0-6f), Joe Bergin 0-2, Odhran Kealey 0-1. Subs.: Brian Carroll for S Gardiner, Tom Carroll for S Ryan, James Mulrooney for M Cleary, Dan Kelliher for C McDonald, Tomas Bolger for D Molloy.

REFEREE: Anthony Stapleton, Laois.

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Meanwhile, on Saturday morning in Banagher, an experimental Offaly outfit was defeated 0-9 to 3-16 by 2012 All-Ireland Finalists Galway in a challenge game.

While current All Star David Burke and none of his St Thomas club mates featuring as they are preparing for their All-Ireland semi-final clash against Loughgiel Shamrocks, the Tribesmen fielded a strong outfit including Joe Canning, Fergal Moore, Kevin Hynes, Johnny Coen, Andy Smith and Cyril Donnellan.

While the second half saw the Galway management trio of Anthony Cunningham, Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny spring Iarla Tannian and Damien Hayes from the bench, along with promising young players like Padraig Brehony and Jason Flynn.

Two first half goals by Niall Healy meant Galway dictated this encounter throughout.

Offaly open their Walsh Cup campaign on January 27 with a match against the winners of Wexford v DIT.

The teams that started Saturday’s challenge game were;

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OFFALY: James Dempsey; David King, Chris McDonald, Michael Cleary; Dermot Mooney, Kevin Brady, Sean Gardiner; Brian Carroll, Sean Ryan; Tom Carroll, Derek Molloy, Colm Coughlan; James Mulrooney, Cathal Parlon, Tomas Bolger.

GALWAY: Fergal Flannery; Fergal Moore, Kevin Hynes, Ger O’Halloran; Aidan Harte, Joseph Cooney, Johnny Coen; Andy Smith, Tadhg Harran; Shane Maloney, Paul Gordon, Cyril Donnellan; Niall Healy, Joe Canning, Davy Glennon.

REFEREE: Brian Gavin, Offaly.