Offaly forward John Murphy
A REMARKABLY lethargic display, almost devoid of championship intensity and real intent, saw Offaly bow out of the Joe McDonagh Cup with a bitterly disappointing defeat at the hands of Carlow in O'Connor Park on Saturday afternoon.
Joe McDonagh Senior Hurling Cup Round 5
It was Offaly's worse display of the campaign and it came at the very wrong time. A draw would have been enough to have put Offaly into the final but almost from the start, it was clear that something was badly wrong. Their intensity levels just never reached where they needed to be and Offaly were sitting ducks almost from the throw in.
It was difficult to explain as it was true knockout hurling for Offaly and they had got themselves into the position they needed to be in, with a draw in their last game enough to put them through. Instead the wheels came off completely and Offaly were taken out by a Carlow side, who ended up bitterly disappointed themselves as Kerry qualified for the final against Antrim after a surprise win up north.
Offaly's demise was a surprise in some ways but in many others, it was not. They had stuttered and stumbled throughout the Joe McDonagh Cup campaign with only flashes and spells of really good hurling. After losing to Antrim in their first game, they had did what they had to do in terms of winning games but it was all extremely unconvincing and Offaly's chickens very much came home to roost here as Carlow steamrolled them in the second half.
The first half was a strangely lethargic affair considering the enormity of the stakes. Both sides played some nice hurling but it was lacking the intensity you would expect for a game of this magnitude, though there were a couple of brief flare ups and cards flashed.
Offaly had first use of the wind and led by 0-10 to 0-8 at the break. That was a fair reflection of the way the half had progressed. Carlow had settled much quicker and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after five minutes.
Two Eoghan Cahill frees had Offaly on terms by the 11th munute and Carlow then hit a purple patch that yielded three points and a 0-6 to 0-3 lead after fourteen minutes – two of those points came from Chris Nolan who had an excellent first half, scoring four points.
Offaly recovered well without hitting top stride. Two Cahill frees and one from play and a huge Stephen Corcoran free gave Offaly a 0-7 to 0-6 lead after 23 minutes. They got two in front on two occasions in the closing minutes of the half and had loads of work to do in the second half.
It all unravelled badly for Offaly in the second half and their performance was miles off where it needed to be. They just never got going and even when it became obvious that a final place was slipping from their grasp, they still couldn't break into full stride. They never looked like salvaging the game and it is difficult to explain how Offaly were so far off the boil on the day.
They were just flat and subdued and their performance fully merited a defeat. Carlow got on level terms, 0-11 each by the 41st minute and two Eoghan Cahill points, one free put Offaly two ahead three minutes later. Carlow got two to equalise and another Cahill free put Offaly 0-14 to 0-13 ahead after fifty minutes.
It was all downhill for Offaly from here. The wind had picked up in the second half and Carlow were able to loft huge clearances into the danger zone. They got three in a row to lead by two after 55 minutes. A David Nally sideline kept Offaly ticking but Carlow had the scent of victory and were winning most of the individual battles.
Kevin McDonald and Martin Kavanagh (free) put Carlow three ahead with ten minutes left. Cahill brought it back to two but McDonald and Kavanagh (free) pointed again to put the winners four clear, 0-20 to 0-16 with six minutes left.
Cahill's free made it a three point game again but Offaly couldn't conjure up anything special late on as McDonald and Conor Kehoe fired over late Carlow points for a very deserved win.
It was a very poor day at the office for Offaly and they just never got going. They tried hard but an awful lot of things were off on the day. They were too sloppy, too laidback and they paid the maximum price. There won't be many players who will look back on this game with any satisfaction. Stephen Corcoran did everything that could be asked of him in goals and others had good spells but as a unit, Offaly have to take collective responsibility.
13 of their 17 points came from placed balls and that was not good enough – it was in stark contrast to Carlow who got 17 points from play.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Chris Nolan (Carlow): Chris Nolan had a brilliant game for Carlow. He got seven points, four in the first half and three in the second. Offaly never got to grips with him.
Carlow: Chris Nolan 0-7, Martin Kavanagh 0-6 (5f), Kevin McDonald 0-4 Conor Kehoe 0-3, Richard Coady and Diarmuid Byrne (f) 0-1 each.
Offaly: Eoghan Cahill 0-13 (11f), Stephen Corcoran (f), Killian Sampson, David Nally (sideline) and Paddy Clancy 0-1 each.
OFFALY: Stephen Corcoran (Coolderry); Jack Screeney (Kilcormac-Killoughey), Ciaran Burke (Durrow), David King (Coolderry); Leon Fox (Belmont), Ben Conneely (St Rynagh's), Padraig Cantwell (Shamrocks); Eimhin Kelly (Lusmagh), Jason Sampson (Shinrone); Killian Sampson (Shinrone), Eoghan Cahill (Birr), David Nally (Belmont); Paddy Clancy (Belmont), John Murphy (Ballinamere), Liam Langton (Clodiagh Gaels). Subs – Brian Duignan (Durrow) for Langton (43m), Adrian Cleary (Shinrone) for Kelly (44m), Luke O'Connor (St Rynagh's) for Murphy (56m), Shane Dooley (Tullamore) for Killian Sampson (67m), Joey Keenaghan (Clodiagh Gaels) for Nally (72m),
CARLOW: Brian Tracey; Jack McCullagh, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Diarmuid Byrne, Jack Kavanagh; Richard Coady, Kevin McDonald; Sean Murphy, Paul Coady, Chris Nolan; Conor Kehoe, John Michael Nolan, Martin Kavanagh. Subs – Jon Nolan for Paul Coady (66m), Fiach O'Toole for Richard Coady (74m).
Referee – Sean Cleere (Kilkenny).
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