OFFALY struck a huge psychological blow against Wexford as they secured Division One hurling for 2010 with victory in yesterday’s NHL Division Two decider at Semple Stadium.
The Faithful County condemned the Slaneysiders to second-tier fare again next year but the two sides will meet again in the Leinster SHC at Wexford Park on May 30.
Wexford had defeated Offaly in the group stages of the competition but Joe Dooley’s men exacted sweet revenge in Thurles, despite registering 14 wides.
Defensively Offaly were very solid and the returns of David Franks and David Kenny to the full-back line were most welcome, while captain Ger Oakley led by example with a gutsy display at centre back.
Offaly played with the aid of a strong first-half breeze into the Town End and by half-time, held a 1-11 to 0-8 lead.
As Wexford resumed with the wind advantage, it seemed that a six-point lead might not be enough for Offaly but they held on, despite scoring just two points in the second half.
Wexford reduced the deficit to two points when midfielder David Redmond pointed with nine minutes remaining but that was as close as the Model County came.
Offaly were hanging on and Shane Dooley’s 43rd-minute free was their first second-half point before Brian Carroll slotted over their second with five minutes remaining.
Offaly, who had three-point hauls from wing-forwards Carroll and Derek Molloy, held on until the finish for a precious win to secure top-flight hurling.
However, goalkeeper Brian Mullins had to be on his game in stoppage time to keep out Wexford sub Tomás Waters with a smart save.
The Model County were left to ultimately rue a very slow start as they fell 1-5 to 0-1 behind with just 12 minutes on the watch. Full-forward Stephen Banville had opened the scoring for Wexford but Offaly responded with 1-5 without reply, Daniel Currams goaling after nine minutes.
Currams applied the finishing touch to James Rigney’s speculative centre from the Old Stand side of the field as Wexford goalkeeper Dermot Flynn found himself in no man’s land.
Diarmuid Lyng stopped the rot for Wexford with a superbly-struck sideline cut from the New Stand side in the 15th minute, the Model County’s first score since Banville’s opener, before Paul Carley added a free two minutes later.
Offaly hit back to lead by 1-8 to 0-4 after 23 minutes before Wexford put together a run of four unanswered points to cut the lead back to just three points.
Crucially, Offaly responded with a run of three successive scores of their own, a trio of Shane Dooley frees, to ensure a decent half-time platform.
Scorers for Wexford: Carley 0-4 (3f, 1 65), S Banville 0-2, D Lyng 0-2 sidelines, M Travers, D Redmond, A Shore, R Jacob & P Kenny 0-1 each. &
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-5f, D Currams 1-1, D Molloy & B Carroll 0-3 each, P Cleary 0-1f.
WEXFORD: D Flynn; M Travers, P Roche, A O’Connell; M Jacob, S Nolan, R Kehoe; D Redmond, C Kenny; D Lyng, A Shore, P Carley; R Jacob, S Banville, P Kenny.
Subs: S Doyle for Kenny (47), T Waters for Carley (48), D Stamp for Nolan (63), P Atkinson for Banville (70).
OFFALY: B Mullins; D Franks, D Kenny, J Rigney; K Brady, G Oakley, P Cleary; R Hanniffy, B Murphy; B Carroll, J Brady, D Molloy; D Currams (1-1), S Dooley, J Bergin.
Subs: C Parlon for Currams (60), C Mahon for Murphy (70+2).
Referee: G Hoey (Clare).
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