Kilkenny breeze past Offaly as Sky cameras roll

Kilkenny's Colin Fennelly and James Rigney of Offaly. Picture: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kilkenny 5-32 Offaly 1-18

Kilkenny sent out a message of intent in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Nowlan Park, as a resounding 26-point win over an overwhelmed Offaly served notice of their Leinster and All-Ireland aspirations.

Brian Carroll's second-minute point had given Offaly a brief advantage in Sky's maiden live GAA encounter, and even though the Cats responded with quick-fire scores by Eoin Larkin and Colin Fennelly, ex-Faithful footballer Sean Ryan was on hand to register his side's second white flag effort.

Shane Dooley's well-worked point from the left-wing kept the visitors within touching distance of their opponents, before an astonishing six-minute scoring spree firmly placed Brian Cody's formidable hosts into the driving seat.

The imposing TJ Reid, who has assumed free-taking duties from his Ballyhale Shamrocks team-mate Henry Shefflin this season, kick-started this purple patch with an eye-catching contribution from play. Braces followed from Eoin Larkin, Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly.

The pace and power of Fennelly was causing countless problems for corner back James Rigney, and the pre-planned tactic of deploying Kevin Connolly as a sweeper in front of the Offaly full-back was backfiring severely.

Netminder James Dempsey did produce a fine save from Walter Walsh on 14 minutes, but after Connolly failed to clear his lines, Larkin scrambled the ball home from close range.

A further point from marauding defender Paul Murphy emphasised the ease at which Kilkenny were dealing with the Offaly challenge. Despite conceding a fourth point to the lively Carroll, a second goal for the Cats inevitably arrived via Colin Fennelly seven minutes after Larkin's opening major.

Back-to-back Offaly points courtesy of Carroll and Daniel Currams did offer a temporary respite, but nine unanswered scores ensured that Kilkenny held an insurmountable 2-22 to 0-6 buffer at the interval.

As a result, pride was all that Offaly could salvage upon the resumption, with the decision to play against the wind before the break proving to be a false step.

Offaly once again opened the half's scoring through skipper Joe Bergin, but full-forward Mark Kelly's 42nd-minute goal meant that all six starting Kilkenny forwards had gotten their names on the scoresheet.

Aside from the magnificent Carroll, Offaly were coming off second best in every department of the field and following a rare five-minute scoring drought, Kelly then grabbed his second goal in emphatic style.

The introduction of multiple All-Star Tommy Walsh directly after this score drew the biggest cheer of the night, but a superb Carroll three-pointer soon arrived.

Indeed, the tireless Carroll ended with an impressive haul of 1-10 and with a breeze at their backs, the Faithfuls added seven points in the closing stages, including one from full-back Rory Hanniffy.

However, Kilkenny never allowed their performance levels to diminish.

Typifying this, a 0-3 contribution from determined substitute Aidan Fogarty was augmented by Larkin's second goal two minutes from time as Cody's men booked their Leinster SHC semi-final spot in comprehensive fashion.

KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy (0-1), JJ Delaney, B Kennedy; P Walsh, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; L Ryan (0-2), R Hogan (0-3); W Walsh (0-5), M Fennelly (0-2), TJ Reid (0-6, 2f); C Fennelly (1-6), M Kelly (2-0), E Larkin (2-4).

Subs used: K Joyce for Kennedy (27 mins), T Walsh for C Fennelly (49), B Hogan for P Walsh (50), A Fogarty (0-3) for Reid (57), JJ Farrell for (61).

OFFALY: J Dempsey; N Wynne, R Hanniffy (0-1), J Rigney; B Harding, D Morkan, C Parlon (0-1); C Mahon (0-1), S Ryan (0-1); J Bergin (0-1), D Currams (0-1), P Geraghty; K Connolly, S Dooley (0-1), B Carroll (1-10, 0-6f).

Subs used: C McDonald for Rigney (26), T Geraghty for P Geraghty (h-t), S Quirke (0-1) for Connolly (h-t), G Healion for Harding (53), C Slevin for Bergin (61).

Referee: James Owens (Wexford)


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