Offaly 3-19 Kerry 0-20
The crisis in Offaly hurling has abated for another fortnight at least after Eamonn Kelly’s county side came through a tense encounter with Kerry this afternoon, writes Kevin Egan.
They secured their progression to the knockout stages of the Leinster championship thanks to two second-half goals from Joe Bergin.
Kerry more than held their own for long stretches of this contest and were unlucky to trail by a single point at half time after hurling with the aid of a fresh breeze.
The Kingdom burst out of the blocks at O’Connor Park and picked off five of the first six points of the contest, with teenage players Jason Diggins and Brandon Barrett both on target with top class scores.
As has been the case all year, Offaly were hugely reliant on Shane Dooley’s placed ball expertise to keep them in contention and the Tullamore man delivered the goods with an array of frees and one superb sideline cut.
He also tapped in a goal from close range shortly before half time to give his side a 1-9 to 0-11 interval lead, however he and his colleagues were guilty of a series of wides after half time and they allowed Kerry to regain the initiative.
It was only with twenty minutes to play that Offaly finally put some daylight between the sides, kickstarted by Bergin’s first goal.
He got a touch to Dooley’s high ball to flick it past Aidan McCabe and when Kevin Connolly followed up with a point, Offaly were five clear.
Kerry continued to press for scores but while Shane Nolan and Brandon Barrett continued to pick off some nice points, they never really troubled James Dempsey in the Offaly goal.
Bergin’s second goal, again assisted by Dooley, killed off any lingering hopes of a Kerry comeback and set Offaly up with a home Leinster quarter-final against Laois, where a win would take them out of the round robin series in 2017.
Offaly Scorers: S Dooley 1-10 (0-8f, 0-1 ’65, 0-1 s/line), J Bergin 2-2, K Connolly 0-2, S Kinsella, J Mulrooney, C Kiely, P Guinan & L Langton 0-1 each.
Kerry Scorers: S Nolan 0-8 (0-6f), B Barrett & J Egan 0-3 each, D Collins & J Griffin 0-2 each, J Diggins & T Casey 0-1 each.
OFFALY: J Dempsey; C McDonald, D Shortt, P Rigney; D King, S Gardiner, D Mooney; S Ryan, P Camon; S Cleary; C Kiely, S Kinsella, P Murphy; S Dooley, J Mulrooney, J Bergin.
Subs: K Connolly for Camon (35), B Conneelly for Mooney (55), P Guinan for Kinsella (58), L Langton for Murphy (66), S Cleary for Kiely (66).
KERRY: A McCabe; B Murphy, P Kelly, K Carmody; J Diggins, D Dineen, T Murnane; D Collins, J Griffin; B Barrett, P Lucid, S Nolan; J Conway, J Egan, J Goulding.
Subs: M O’Leary for Lucid (29), D Fitzell for Murphy (52), B O’Leary for Conway (55), T Casey for Collins (60).
Referee: Paud O’Dywer (Carlow).