Offaly 4-8 Carlow 1-10
OFFALY'S two top forwards Joe Bergin and Shane Dooley hit a combined 4-4 as the Faithful County claimed their first NHL Division 1B points of the campaign with a deserved seven-point victory over Carlow in a game which started in a downpour and ended in a snowstorm at Netwatch Cullen Park.
This result means that these two counties must meet again on Sunday next in O'Connor Park, Tullamore to decide which of them faces relegation to Division 2A.
Carlow's problems started in the 4th minute when Joe Bergin's harmless-looking shot slipped past home goalie Brian Tracey for a soft goal. Carlow fought back, depending exclusively on Marty Kavanagh frees for their opening five points as they levelled matters at 0-5 to 1-2 on 17 minutes. But Colm Bonnar's men never led.
In that opening half, the Offaly defence defended heroically, allowing the Carlow attack little scope. Carlow's only first-half score from play was a 26th-minute point from full forward Denis Murphy. The Offaly corner-backs Paddy Rigney and Ben Conneely were particularly vigilant in keeping James Doyle and Chris Nolan, two of Carlow's top forwards, scoreless from play.
At half time Offaly led 1-5 to 0-6 and although Carlow made a bright start to the second half they failed to put that superiority on the scoreboard. They were then hit with two sucker punches as first an Offaly 65 went to the net with Shane Dooley getting the final touch. That was on 47 minutes and a minute later confusion in the Carlow defence allowed Dooley to turn provider for Bergin who goaled from close range.
Carlow's misery was complete when a ball from outfield evaded the defence for Dooley to score his second goal.
Carlow had been awarded a 52nd-minute penalty but Marty Kavanagh's shot rose over the Offaly bar. A second penalty to the home side in injury time was sent wide by goalie Tracey, to complete a day for misery for the home county.
Offaly were the better side on the day and worthy of their win. They will now feel confident of maintaining their Division 1B status on home soil next Sunday.
Kevin Martin, the Offaly boss said: “It was not a day for hurling – it was mucky and sloppy. Hurling should not be played on days like this.”
He continued: “The job is only half done for Offaly – we have to stay up. Our guys knew their backs were to the wall. We are fighting for survival.”
Carlow manager Colm Bonnar said: “Offaly adapted to the conditions better than we did. We were playing well in the first 10/15 minutes in the second half. But we did not take our chances. They came up and got a goal and then another goal.” Those goals, the Tipperary man said, “took us out of the game.”
Scorers: Offaly: J Bergin 2-3, 0-3f, S Dooley 2-1, C Langton 0-2, C Gath, J Gorman 0-1 each.
Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-6, 0-5f, 0-1 65, S Murphy 1-0, D Murphy, J Kavanagh, D English (f), C Nolan (f) 0-1 each.
Offaly: E Cahill; P Rigney, N Houlihan, B Conneely; D Egan, P Camon, A Treacy; C Gath, S Kinsella; J Bergin, S Dolan, K Dunne; K Connolly, C Egan, C Langton.
Subs: S Dooley for Connolly (13); C Taylor for Egan (57); J Gorman for Gath (67); D Shortt for Kinsella (70+1).
Carlow: B Tracey, A Corcoran, P Doyle, M Doyle; E Nolan, D English, K McDonald; J Kavanagh, S Whelan; S Murphy, M Kavanagh, E Byrne; J Doyle, D Murphy, C Nolan.
Subs: R Coady for E Nolan (injured) (10); R Smithers for D Murphy (54); J M Nolan for J Doyle (56); J Nolan for C Nolan (62).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).