Galway too strong for improving Offaly side

By Daragh O Conchuir

Galway 5-18 Offaly 2-15

Galway had two more points in hand at the end of today's encounter than was the case when they accounted for Offaly in last year's Championship, but the Tricolours showed more than enough to confirm the impression created during the League that they are an improving side.

The All-Ireland champions carried a goal threat throughout however and as the home team tired, they capitalised on the spaces to plunder a couple of late goals that gave the scoreline a slightly unflattering hue from an Offaly perspective.

That said, their goalkeeper Eoghan Cahill saved a penalty and made three more stops in the second half, two of which were top-drawer variety.

It was job done for Galway after a spring campaign that ended in relegation, though one always got the impression that it was a price they were willing to pay. In truth, they never looked like suffering their first Championship defeat to Offaly in 24 years.

The Faithful men certainly carried out the first part of their task in maintaining competitiveness in the first half.

While they had enjoyed a positive League campaign, there were some concerns that Galway's vaunted forward line might prove problematic. And though Joe Canning was completely anonymous, they still looked like they might get their fill of goals.

In the end, they had five and had two in the first half, squalling their aggregate tally of majors from that memorable 2017 campaign.

The second of those, just before half time from the brilliant Joseph Cooney, was probably a vital score and with Cathal Mannion adding a point, that made it 2-9 to 1-7 at half time.

This was harsh on the hosts, but at the same time, they had to accept a portion of responsibility for not being closer, having shot nine wides, as David King and Shane Kinsella provided them with more than enough possession.

Whereas Galway were able to fashion more scoring opportunities from play - and Joseph Cooney had a goal and three points alone from play in that opening period - Offaly needed to entice frees. Of Shane Dooley's 1-6, five points came from placed balls.

Dooley and Cooney had points on the board early on when Brian Concannon marked his championship debut in the best possible fashion, showing good predatory instincts to finish from close range in the fifth minute for what he hopes will be the first of many goals in Maroon, after Conor Cooney's bullet struck the post.

Concannon followed up with an early point but if Micheal Donoghue was hoping his charges might pull away, it wasn't to be.

Perhaps it would have been if Conor Whelan not inexplicably struck the post with only Eoghan Cahill to beat. He was fouled when gathering the rebound but Canning's strike from the resultant penalty in the 11th minute was a nice height and the easier side for Cahill to stop.

Within 45 seconds, Dooley was rattling the net at the other end, after the industrious Oisin Kelly sped through the middle. The next part of the move was sumptuous, with a pass of real vision and no mean execution, as he took out the last defender without Dooley having to check his run.

The Tullamore sharpshooter provided the ideal exclamation point, rifling to the net to the delight of the majority of the 8,300 in attendance. Dooley levelled soon afterwards and Kevin Martin's crew gave as good as they got for about an hour.

The teams were level four times in the first half and there was just a point in it when that Cooney goal and Mannion point opened a margin that Offaly never looked like reeling in.

Galway stepped it up a gear straight after the resumption, and Concannon had a goal in the 44th minute, taking a pass from Cathal Whelan after a spectacular Aussie rules-style catch by the Kinvara man.

Joe Bergin had the ball in the net at the other end two minutes later to keep everyone interest.

Meanwhile, Cahill denied Canning twice more, leaving the Hurler of the Year raising his eyes to the Heavens in absolute frustration.

Late goals from Whelan and Jason Flynn stretched the gap but there was plenty for Offaly to take from this as they build for the future.

For Galway, it was job done and bigger fish to fry.

Scorers for Galway: J Canning 0-8(6fs, 1 65); J Cooney 1-4; B Concannon 2-1; C Whelan 1-1; J Flynn 1-0; C Cooney 0-2; S Loftus, C Mannion 0-1 each

Scorers for Offlay: S Dooley 1-9(0-8fs); J Bergin 1-1; D King 0-2; S Kinsella, D Currams, E Cahill(f) 0-1 each

Galway: J Skehill, A Tuohey, Daithí Burke, J Hanbury, P Mannion, G McInerney, A Harte, J Coen, David Burke, J Canning, C Mannion, J Cooney, C Whelan, C Cooney, B Concannon.

Subs: S Loftus for Coen (59), J Flynn for C Cooney (59), N Burke for C Mannion (63), R Burke for Harte (65), J Glynn for Canning (67)

Offaly: E Cahill, T Spain, S Gardiner, B Conneely, D Egan, P Camon, B Murphy, D King, Shane Kinsella; C Mahon, C Egan, O Kelly, J Bergin, S Dooley.

Subs: C Kiely for Mahon (52), S Ryan for Murphy (59), P Murphy for Egan (62), T Geraghty for Currams (62), P Rigney for Spain (68)

Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).


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