Cathal King, Offaly.
A HIGHLY rated Offaly minor hurling team will have their mettle well and truly tested when they travel to Kilkenny for the first round of the Leinster Minor Hurling Championship this Wednesday evening.
The prospects of this year's Offaly minor team has been spoken about in quiet circles for a few months now but the real evidence will be presented against what is certain to be a formidable Kilkenny side.
As usual, Kilkenny will be favourites but it will be very interesting to see how Offaly perform. Kilkenny proved too strong for Offaly in the 2020 Leinster final and the visitors will be aiming to be much more competitive here.
A lot of work has been done with Offaly underage hurling in recent years. U-20s and seniors are also making progress and it has all led to increased optimism about the future prospects of the game in the county.
Definite progress is being made. The U-20s had a big win over Kildare last week and for underage sides, the first aim is to be beating the Kildare's, Laois's, Westmeath's and Carlow's every chance they get. To beat them and when the opportunity arises, beat them well. That will have an important psychological dividend for Offaly. It will give them the belief that they can beat counties who they were masters of for twenty years from 1980 to 2000 but who have inflicted significant hardship on Offaly in recent years.
After that, Offaly can try to close the gap on Kilkenny, Dublin, Wexford and Galway and if they can take any of these counties at the moment, it will be a huge boost.
The performance against Kilkenny is the most important thing at the moment, to be competitive and to give a good account of themselves. If they are good enough, everything else will take care of itself but at the moment, Offaly want to give it a run. Time will tell but a strong looking team will be travelling to Kilkenny with something more than hope.
The Offaly team has been named by manager Leo O'Connor and selectors, Leonard Deane, Ray Cordial and Alan Corboy. It includes Patrick Taaffe, Colin Spain, Cathal King, Daniel Bourke and Ciuan Nolan who played in the recent 2020 Leinster minor hurling final defeat by Kilkenny. Two members of the Offaly minor football team, who were beaten by Dublin recently, have also been named: Tubber's Donal Shirley and Tullamore's Niall Furlong.
OFFALY: Kieran Coonan (Clodiagh Gaels); Ruari Kelly (Lusmagh), James Mahon (Kilcormac-Killoughey), Patrick Taaffe (Belmont); Dan Ravenhill (Durrow), Cathal King (Carrig and Riverstown), Donal Shirley (Tubber); Colin Spain (Kilcormac-Killoughey), Niall Furlong (Tullamore); Daniel Bourke (Durrow), Darragh Tierney (Birr), Cian Nolan (Birr); Alex Kavanagh (Kilcormac-Killoughey), Andrew Coakley (Carrig and Riverstown), Adam Screeney (Kilcormac-Killoughey). Subs – Liam Hoare (Carrig and Riverstown), Daire Temple (Lusmagh), Peter King (Carrig and Riverstown), Ciaran Daly (St Rynagh's), Brecon Kavanagh (Kilcormac-Killoughey), Leigh Kavanagh (Kilcormac-Killoughey), Conor Dunican (Belmont), James Scully (Ballinamere), (Shane Rigney (St Rynagh's).
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