Hanniffy the hero as Offaly comeback leaves Tipp shell-shocked

NOT a Whelahan in sight, but battling Offaly snatched a thrilling one point victory over Tipperary in the Allianz NHL at piercingly cold Birr yesterday.

Offaly 1-15 Tipperary 0-17

A typically opportunist goal from captain Gary Hanniffy, five minutes from the end of normal time, swung the game Offaly's way after Tipperary seemed destined for victory following two sublime points from wing back Eamon Corcoran in the closing stages.

Without question, Michael McNamara's side deserved to take the spoils because they refused to lie down when Tipp were firing on all cylinders and threatening to put daylight between the two fiercely committed sides.

Offaly looked far from convincing for long periods in the first half when favoured by the strong wind. A splendid Tipperary defence, in which full back David Kennedy and new centre back John Carroll played key roles, easily held the Offaly forwards at bay. And with Shane Maher making a very promising debut at centre-forward, Tipperary looked far superior as they scorched into a four point lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Superb goalkeeping from Brian Mullins, who brilliantly denied Eoin Kelly and Ger O'Grady in turn, kept Offaly in the hunt. However, it was the masterful move of Rory Hanniffy to the 40 that ignited Offaly.

Hanniffy scored a succession of spectacular long range points from both play and frees as Offaly finally began to seriously trouble Tipp.

Offaly whittled down the deficit to draw level and then fashion a one point lead at the interval (0-9 to 0-8), after wing back Colm Cassidy converted an 80 metre free in injury time.

However, Tipperary really opened up after the resumption. Playing some exquisite hurling and scoring freely, they jumped back into the lead with four points in the space of an electrifying five minutes from Seamus Butler, Ger O'Grady, Eoin Kelly and new captain Benny Dunne.

It looked all over such was the purpose of Tipperary's hurling. But, with great courage and sheer grit Offaly came fighting back.

Three pointed frees from Rory Hanniffy gave Offaly the breathing space they so desperately needed and the home side snatched the lead in the 50th minute when a rocket-like drive from Brian Carroll was magnificently deflected over the bar by Allstar goalkeeper Brendan Cummins.

Now the pressure was really on and once again Tipperary drew first blood. Seamus Butler equalised and then Corcoran hit two tremendous points from his own half back line.

Eoin Kelly added another from a close in free and Tipperary looked to be home and dry.

But Offaly responded to the challenge in magnificent fashion. Substitute Dylan Hayden reduced the deficit to two points and then sent in a speculative lob which Gary Hanniffy poked over the line.

Rory Hanniffy then converted a 65 to stretch Offaly's lead to two points and the only response from shell-shocked Tipp was a late point from midfielder Eddie Enright.

Scorers: Offaly: G. Hanniffy (1-0), R. Hanniffy (0-9 0-6 frees, 0-1 65), B. Murphy (0-2), M. O'Hara, B. Carroll, D. Hayden, C. Cassidy (free) (0-1 each). Tipperary: E. Kelly (0-5 0-3 frees), S. Maher (0-3), G. O'Grady (0-3), E. Corcoran (0-2), B. O'Meara, S. Butler, B. Dunne, E. Enright (0-1 each).

OFFALY: B. Mullins, D. Franks, G. Oakley, B. Teehan, N. Claffey, J. Brady, C. Cassidy, M. O'Hara, B. Murphy, B. Carroll, N. Coughlan, R. Hanniffy, D. Murray, G. Hanniffy, R. McRedmond. Subs: D. Hayden for McRedmond, M. Cordial for O'Hara, N. Mannion for Coughlan, K. Brady for J. Brady.

TIPPERARY: B. Cummins, T. Costello, D. Kennedy, M. Phelan, E. Corcoran, J. Carroll, D. Fitzgerald, P. Kelly, E. Enright, B. O'Meara, S. Maher, B. Dunne, S. Butler, G. O'Grady, E. Kelly, Subs: L. Corbett for P. Kelly, P. O'Brien for O'Meara.

Referee: P. Dunphy (Kilkenny).

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