Offaly 3-9 Kilkenny 1-9
By John Fogarty
Offaly hurlers’ first inter-county game in Birr in nine years ended with a hard-fought victory over an experimental Kilkenny side comprising U21s and a handful of senior panellists.
The win, which earned Offaly a Walsh Cup semi-final clash in Wexford next weekend, came by way of James Gorman’s late brace of goals.
Three minutes prior to his first goal in the 66th minute, Kilkenny had drawn level after three unanswered points. Gorman, though, restored Offaly’s advantage when he poached with his first and then repeated the trick to seal the result with another in injury-time.
On a terribly cut-up pitch, Offaly drew first blood in the sixth minute when James Mulrooney found the net, which was followed up by a Shane Dooley free. Kilkenny were up and running with a Michael Kenny free before John Joe Farrell put the ball on a plate for Bill Ryan to goal and level the sides.
Two Dooley frees followed and while Kenny tagged on another free in the 28th minute, it was Kilkenny’s last score of the half in which they failed to add a point from play. That said, Offaly goalkeeper James Dempsey had to be sharp to deny Farrell a goal in the 24th minute.
Offaly, who were backed by a breeze, only managed one themselves via the impressive Joey O’Connor in midfield, which came in the 32nd minute.
Centre-back Conor Doughan added an injury-time long rang free to widen the gap to three points at half-time, 1-5, to 1-2.
Scorers for Offaly: J Gorman (2-0); J Mulrooney (1-0); S Dooley (0-7, 6 frees, 1 65); J O’Connor, C Doughan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny: B Ryan (1-0); M Kenny, B Kennedy (both 0-2, frees); C Ryan, M Kelly, JJ Farrell (free), N Mullins, M Malone (0-1 each).
Subs for Offaly: B Murphy for S Cleary, J Gorman for J Sampson (both 35+1); S Quirke for P Murphy (58); G Connelly for J O’Connor (66); J Bergin for J Mulrooney (69).
Subs for Kilkenny: C Ryan for M Kenny (h-t); C Browne for L Scanlon (44); N Mullins for J Hayes (57); JP Treacy for O Walsh (66).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; N Wynne, B Leonard, P Rigney; D Mooney, C Doughan, P Camon; S Kinsella, J O’Connor; P Murphy, C Egan, J Sampson; S Cleary, S Dooley, J Mulrooney.
KILKENNY: A Duggan; C Delaney, S Prendergast, C Wallace; B Kennedy, L Ryan, O Walsh; J Hayes, M Kenny; L Scanlon, M Malone, M Kelly; JJ Farrell, M Kenny, B Ryan.
Referee: A Devine (Westmeath)