The final scoreline in this Leinster U-21 Hurling Championship semi-final certainly doesn’t do justice to a brave Offaly side who came very close to causing an upset and dumping Kilkenny out of the Championship in O’Connor Park on Wednesday evening.
BGE Leinster U-21 Hurling Championship semi-final
For 55 minutes Offaly were right in the hunt and they played with a tenacity and determination that was the hallmark of their double All Star winning manager Ger Coughlan in his playing days.
Kilkenny players were relentlessly hassled in possession as the home side gave an exhibition of hooking and blocking.
In the end Kilkenny however just proved that little bit too strong winning by six points but with ten minutes remaining the game was still on a knife edge.
A goal from a powerfully struck 21 metre free from sharpshooter Stephen Quirke put Offaly 1-9 to 0-11 lead and an upset looked to be a very real possibility.
However, as they always seem to do, Kilkenny kept their composure and hit back in emphatic fashion with a sweetly take goal at the other end from substitute Michael Brennan.
Offaly were not done yet however and had a chance to retake the lead from a penalty but Stephen Quirke’s shot was saved. Sean Dolan was first onto the rebound but Kilkenny ‘keeper Aaron Duggan again got his hurl in the way and the danger was cleared preserving the visitor’s one point lead.
After that let off, Kilkenny powered away scoring the last five points of the game to secure their place in the Leinster Final against Wexford.
Offaly got off to a whirlwind start and lead by 0-6 to 0-3 midway through the first-half with Stephen Quirke leading the charge.
Kilkenny clawed their way back as half-time approached but Offaly continued to battle and still held a slender 0-9 to 0-8 lead at the break with Thomas Geraghty chipping in with two points for Offaly.
Kilkenny came out strongly at the start of the second-half hitting three unanswered points before Aodhan Kealey pulled one back for Offaly who trailed by two at 0-11 to 0-9.
Stephen Quirke’s goal put Offaly ahead but it was quickly cancelled out by Michael Brennan. Quirke, who was arguably the man of the match, was then unlucky to see a penalty saved and Kilkenny took advantage hitting the final five points to seal the win.
Scorers: Offaly:Stephen Quirke 1-10 (1-7f), Thomas Geraghty 0-2, Aodhan Kealey 0-1; Kilkenny: John Power 0-10 (0-9, 0-1 ‘65), Michael Brennan 1-1, Kevin Kelly 0-4, Cillian Buckley 0-1, Richie Reid 0-1, Shane Donnelly 0-1, Ger Aylward 0-1
OFFALY: Conor Clancy; Niall Wynne, Dan Kelleher, Michael Cleary; Sean Gardner, Pat Camon, David King; Thomas Carroll, Sean Cleary; Sean Dolan, Aodhan Kealey, Peter Geraghty; Stephen Quirke, Thomas Geraghty, Adrian Hynes. Subs: Jason Sampson for Kealey (57mins).
KILKENNY: Aaron Duggan; Jack Nolan, Willie Phelan, Padraig Walsh; Jason Corcoran, Luke Harney, Brian Kennedy; Richie Reid, Owen McGrath; Cillian Buckley, John Power, Ollie Walsh; Ger Aylward, Kevin Kelly, Shane Donnelly . Subs: Jack Langton for Nolan (27mins), Michael Brennan for Reid (38mins), Conor Martin for O Walsh (50mins).
REFEREE: Justin Heffernan (Wexford).
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