Offaly's hurlers have secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Allianz Hurling League with one game remaining after a five point win over Laois in O'Connor Park today.
Joe Bergin's goal in the second-half was key as it gave Offaly a six point lead and Laois never looked like closing the gap from that point on.
Offaly are currently third in the table and assured of a place in the quarter-finals and they face Antrim next weekend in St Brendan's Park next Sunday in their final group game in a game that should draw a huge crowd to Birr.
Laois made a bright start with Paddy Purcell pointing after only 12 seconds of play, as Laois enjoyed the wind advantage in the first half.
Nearly five minutes would pass before Laois registered another score, and that was a booming free from his own 45 yard line by Enda Rowland. Laois were on the front foot but Paddy Delaney opened the Offaly account in the ninth minute, and a Shane Dooley free soon after leveled the scores.
Laois struck a goal to once again take the initiative but Offaly canceled the goal out in the ensuing minutes. Shane Dooley pointed a free, before a poorly taken sideline cut from Cha Dwyer allowed Offaly to break forward, and Tommy Geraghty fired over the bar.
Joe Bergin then leveled the scores after winning a high ball into the full-forward line, and Offaly's recovery was complete when Cillian Kiely put them ahead.
Willie Dunphy pointed before Shane Dooley (free) and Padraig Lawlor traded points to keep the team level, and that was the way the first half played out, with both teams picking off scores, but neither really doing enough to open up a gap.
They were level at 1-7 to 0-10 on the stroke of half time, but poor Laois defending allowed Tommy Geraghty to score his second point, and Offaly led by the minimum at half time.
Much like the first half, Laois got off to a bright start in the second as Ross King leveled the scores with a free, and then sub Mark Kavanagh pushed Laois in front with a sideline cut. The Offaly response was swift and clinical, as David King and Joe Bergin pointed from play, Shane Dooley tapped over a free, and then Bergin lashed home a goal from the edge of the penalty area.
Dan Currams added another, and Offaly now found themselves six clear with Laois looking in real trouble. Ross King pointed a free from close range to try to break the Offaly momentum, but it make little difference, as Laois were struggling to deal with direct ball into Joe Bergin.
He, and Shane Dooley, accounted for the next five points for Offaly, as Bergin hit two from play and Dooley added three from placed balls, as the lead now swelled to nine.
Laois did rally after that, and a run of three points without reply narrowed the gap to six, but they never threatened to get the goals they needed, as Offaly ran out comfortable winners in the end.
SCORERS - Laois: Paddy Purcell 1-3, Ross King 0-5 (0-4 frees), Willie Dunphy, Mark Kavanagh 0-2 each, Padraig Lawlor, Cha Dwyer, Neil Foyle 0-1 each.
Offaly: Shane Dooley 0-11 (0-7 frees, 0-1 65), Joe Bergin 1-4, Tommy Geraghty 0-2, David O'Toole, Paddy Delaney, Cillian Kiely, Dan Currams 0-1 each
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Donncha Hartnett, Leigh Bergin, Lee Cleere; Padraig Lawlor, Matthew Whelan, Eric Killeen; James Ryan, Patrick Purcell; Ben Conroy, Cha Dwyer, Willie Dunphy; Ross King, Neil Foyle, Ciarán Comerford. Subs: Colm Stapleton for Hartnett (23 mins), Mark Kavanagh for Comerford (half time), Conor Quinlan for Killeen (41 mins), Cian Taylor for Dunphy (59 mins), Paddy McCane for Foyle (67 mins)
OFFALY: Eoghan Cahill; Tom Spain, Sean Gardiner, Ben Conneely; David O'Toole, Pat Camon, Paddy Delaney; David King, Tommy Geraghty; Joe Bergin, Shane Dooley, Colin Egan; Cillian Kiely, Conor Mahon, Dan Currams. Subs: Oisin Kelly for Kiely (51 mins), James Gorman for Currams (62 mins), Dermot Short for Geraghty (67 mins), Paddy Rigney for Delaney (67 mins)
Ref: Justin Heffernan (Wexford)
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