Shooting practice as professional Offaly return to Joe McDonagh Cup

Shooting practice as professional Offaly return to Joe McDonagh Cup

John Murphy on the run for Offaly.

Offaly 0-41

Derry 2-14

OFFALY brought the curtain down on a season of progress and improvement with an anticipated routine win over Derry in the Christy Ring Cup final in Croke Park this afternoon.

It was a professional, solid display by Offaly, who did what they had to do, were never in trouble of losing and it was really an afternoon of shooting practice for them. It wasn't a perfect performance and some of the first touch wasn't wonderful all the time but it represented a very satisfactory end to a pleasing year.

While getting back to the Joe McDonagh Cup was an absolute priority for Offaly, the really big take from the year was promotion to Division 1 of the National Hurling League and their form in a tough Division 2A. The way they beat Joe McDonagh Cup opposition in Meath, Kerry, Carlow and Down was very significant and while championship is a whole different ball game, the way they played in the league suggests that they can really challenge for the Joe McDonagh Cup next year.

Offaly came up against a much lesser standard of opposition in the Christy Ring Cup and their wins over Sligo and Wicklow in particular showed how important it is to get out of it. Offaly did what they had to do in comfortable wins but there was something soul destroying about playing opposition who were so inferior.

Derry were a little bit better than Sligo and Wicklow but only a bit and Offaly were in a different class to them. They can be pleased with the way they played here and there was a wide gulf between the sides.

The sides were level at 0-2 each after five minutes but Offaly then went on the rampage. John Murphy got three super points in a row as Ofaly scored twelve without reply to lead by 0-12 to 0-2 after sixteen minutes. Ten points is no longer an insurmountable lead in hurling but it was all over at that stage. Derry did rally a bit and Gerard Bradley got in for a 21st minute goal. They trailed by 0-14 to 1-5 after 25 minutes but Offaly stepped on the gas again and had the game effectively won with a 0-19 to 1-7 half time lead.

Defensively Offaly were in complete control in that first half while John Murphy and Oisin Kelly led the Derry defence on a merry dance. Murphy fired over four points from play while Kelly got three and threatened to get in for the goal that would have really buried Derry.

The second half continued in a similar vein. There was a certain sloppiness in Offaly's play and it resulted in one of the guilty parties Liam Langton being replaced after 44 minutes but they could well afford it and continued to play some very decent hurling as well. Eoghan Cahill really came to his milk in the second half, showing great opportunism from play as well as finding the range from frees.

The issue was never in the remotest of doubt and Offaly were more than double scores ahead, 0-27 to 1-10 at the water break. It meant that the closing quarter was entirely of academic interest and the big thing was Offaly hitting the 40 point mark – Damien Egan achieved that distinction with a great strike from the right wing.

The only downside from the afternoon was the failure to get goals but the reality is that Offaly didn't try for them and were content to take their points all day long. Derry did get a second goal with a great Odhran McKeever strike but at that stage, it didn't matter at all.

Offaly will be glad to be out of the Christy Ring Cup and the Croke Park experience will have served many of the players well. They played well overall without ever really going full throttle. There were plenty of very good individual performances. Derry didn't ask too many serious questions but Offaly's defence were very good. There were a handful of errors but they won nearly all the individual battles with Ciaran Burke, Ben Conneely, Aidan Treacy and the excellent Killian Sampson standing out.

Leon Fox had a very good first half at midfield while Ross Ravenhill was steady and had a good second half. Eoghan Cahill, John Murphy and Oisin Kelly were super up front. Murphy was wonderfully sharp and as well as scoring handsomely, he had a few assists. Cahill continues to astound with his scoring statistics while Oisin Kelly was the man of the match. He won all sorts of ball, scored some excellent points from play and for once, didn't truly go for the jugular by putting the boot down and going for goals. His point taking, however, was sublime and he is one player who has really come on in leaps and bounds under Michael Fennelly's guidance. Leo O'Connor also impressed when introduced and Offaly will be looking further to infinitely tougher battles next season.


Offaly: Eoghan Cahill 0-13 (9f), Oisin Kelly 0-7, John Murphy 0-5, Aidan Treacy 0-3, Leon Fox, Shane Dooley (2f), Luke O'Connor and Shane Kinsella 0-2 each, Ben Conneely, Killian Sampson, Liam Langton, Jason Sampson and Damien Egan 0-1 each.

Derry: Cormac O'Doherty 0-5 (5f), Gerald Bradley and Odhran McKeever 1-1 each, Brian Cassidy 0-3, John Mullan 0-2, Richie Mullan, Deaghlan Foley 0-1 each.

OFFALY: Conor Clancy (St Rynagh's); Paddy Delaney (Kinnitty), Ciaran Burke (Durrow), David King (Coolderry); Aidan Treacy (St Rynagh's), Ben Conneely (St Rynagh's), Killian Sampson (Shinrone); Leon Fox (Belmont), Ross Ravenhill (Durrow); John Murphy (Ballinamere), Liam Langton (Clodiagh Gaels), Jason Sampson (Shinrone); Eoghan Cahill (Birr), Brian Duignan (Durrow), Oisin Kelly (Belmont). Subs – Luke O'Connor (St Rynagh's) for Langton (44m), Eimhin Kelly (Lusmagh) for Fox (49m), Shane Kinsella (Kinnitty) for Jason Sampson (54m), Shane Dooley (Tullamore) for Duignan (58m), Damien Egan (Belmont) for Cahill (61m).

DERRY: Oisin O'Doherty; Meehaul McGrath, Sean Cassidy, Darragh McCloskey; Brian McGilligan, Deaghlan Foley, Richie Mullan; Eoghan Cassidy, Cormac O'Doherty; Mark McGuigan, Gerald Bradley, John Mullan; Odhran McKeever, Se McGuigan, Brian Cassidy. Subs – Shea Cassidy for McGuigan (45m), Padhraig Neilis for Cassidy (48m), Brendan Laverty for Foley (62m), Ruari McWilliams for McCloskey (65m),

Referee – Thomas Gleeson (Dublin).

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