Offaly U20 hurlers brave in defeat to Wexford
Offaly's U20 hurlers went down fighting in Wednesday evening's Leinster semi-final after a late goal ensured Wexford's advancement to the decider.
A large crowd gathered in BNM O'Connor Park to watch the exciting Offaly outfit following their sensational extra-time victory over Dublin in the previous round.
The team repaid the support with a fast start as Barry Kealey rasped over the first point of the game just ten seconds into the contest.
Wexford are looking for a clean sweep of Leinster hurling titles at senior, minor and U20 level this summer and they too bloomed early in the game, Sean Keane Carroll and Sean O'Connor overturning the deficit.
Conor Langton and Sean Keane Carroll traded scores as the game settled into a brilliant end-to-end battle. Things were about to take a significant turn, however, and when a Ross Banville point was followed by a Conall Clancy goal for Wexford, the Faithful were well and truly on the back foot.
A Brian Duignan point and Cathal Kiely brace reduced the deficit to two points, 1-4 to 0-5 after 20 minutes before Niall Murphy restored the goal advantage for the visitors.
Cathal Kiely and Ross Banville set about a scoring back-and-forth with Kiely, fresh from scoring 0-20 against Dublin last week, added two to his first-half tally before the break. Offaly trailed 1-8 to 0-7 at half-time.
Offaly once again started in electric fashion in the second half as midfield maestro David Nally fired over a point, only for it to be cancelled out by Charlie McGuckian seconds later.
A Conor Langton brace was also matched by points from Wexford's Banville and Eoin Murphy as Offaly struggled to reel in the Model county.
Offaly then scored four on the bounce with Kiely, Langton, Nally and Cillian Ryan all getting on the scoresheet, bringing the scores to 1-14 to 0-14 at the 45-minute mark.
It was then Wexford's turn to go on a run as they rattled off three points without reply thanks to Banville, Clancy and Jack Reck, putting six between the teams again.
Offaly refused to allow their heads to drop and they tenacity was rewarded when last week's last-minute free-scoring hero John Murphy found the net, much to the delight of the home crowd in Tullamore.
David Nally followed it with a point to put just two between the teams again but Banville, a thorn in the side all evening, pointed yet again to restore the margin.
Yet again Offaly rallied, and Murphy, Nally and Killian Sampson all found the posts as they brought the gap back to one in injury time.
However, it was Wexford who had the final say with a late point and cruelly, another goal from Diarmuid Doyle, to add some gloss to the final scoreline, 2-20 to 1-18.