By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Wicklow 1-20 Offaly 1-15 (after extra time): It wasn't one for the purists but it did bring plenty of excitement eventually, and the shock win for Wicklow made it one for the romantics.
John Evans' charges were never in front in regulation time but they were the better team from the three-quarter mark. Once they got to extra time they dominated and Daragh Fitzgerald's goal sealed the deal.
It wasn't good from a quality perspective and neither did it get the blood flowing until the final quarter of normal time when the prospect of Wicklow causing a shock started to become a real possibility..
The defences were largely on top and that had nothing to do with being bulwarked by additional personnel.
Some of the attempts at kicking the ball were deplorable in conditions that couldn't have been more conducive to good execution of the skills of the game.
Bernard Allen was one player who deserved to be exempted from criticism however, registering three points from play in a first half that produced just 11 scores between the teams.
What separated the teams was a 30th minute goal from Anton Sullivan. It was a an excellent score, the Rhode flier picking up possession 45 metres from the Wicklow posts and waltzing past a couple of defenders before finishing with aplomb beyond Mark Jackson.
That made it 1-5 to 0-5 at half time.
Wicklow gave evidence of their unwillingness to yield with early points from Furlong (free) and John Crowe.
Shane Tierney came on to good effect for Offaly and got on the scoresheet quickly, but John McGrath was on a lot of ball and kicked a lovely score at the other end.
Offaly had a glorious opportunity when James Lalor was fouled for a penalty in the 58th minute. Nigel Dunne had just been reintroduced after being replaced in the first half but his low shot was superbly tipped around the post by Jackson.
The Wicklow goalie was the star of the show as apart from that crucial stop he to scored with seven points from placed balls. Three of those were were equalisers from 45m or further out in the closing stages.
By now Wicklow were exerting control and Eoin Murtagh spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to snatch it when fisting to the net while attempting to point.
Mark Kenny gave them the lead for the first time two minutes into the third period of action, and with Furlong and Jackson doing the honours from frees they led by 0-19 to 1-13 at the final turnaround.
Fitzgerald's goal came In the 82nd minute, the substitute collecting possession and running unopposed goalwards before slotting coolly to the net.
There was no way back for Offaly from that.
Scorers for Offaly: B Allen 0-3: A Sullivan 1-2(0-1f), S Tierney 0-2, A Mulhall 0-2 (45s), C Donohue 0-1; N Dunne 0-1(f), J Hayes 0-1, N Darby 0-2(fs), G Spollen 0-1
Scorers for Wicklow: M Jackson 0-7(5fs, 2 45s); S Furlong 0-5(fs), D Fitzgerald 1-0, J McGrath 0-2, M Kenny 0-2, J Crowe 0-1, D Hayden 0-1(f), D Healy 0-1, C Magee 0-1
Offaly: A Mulhall, N Darby, D Hogan, P McConway, D Dempsey, S Pender, C Donohue, C Carroll, C Dunne, M Brazil, C McNamee, R McNamee, B Allen, N Dunne, A Sullivan. Subs: S Tierney for Dunne (28), G Spollen for Pender (40), Dunne forCarroll (54), J Hayes for R McNamee (54), J Lalor for Brazil (56), A Cunningham for Donohue (80), Brazil for C McNamee (ht et), S Doyle for Tierney (ht et)
Wicklow: M Jackson, C Hyland J Snell P Merrigan, S Kearon, D Healy, J Crowe R Finn, J Stafford, K Murphy, D Hayden, T Smyth, S Furlong, J McGrath, M Kenny. Subs: C Magee for Furlong blood (11-12), R O'Brien for Snell (28), E Murtagh for Hyland blood (43-44), C Healy for Crowe (48), C Magee for Stafford (54), D Fitzgerald for McGrath (67), Murtagh for Merrigan inj (70+2), D Boothman for Finn (72), Finn for Smyth (84), Crowe for Hayden (90+1)
Referee: J Henry (Mayo)