Defeats to Cork and Wexford in last Saturday’s senior qualifiers left both Offaly and Dublin searching for consolation in last night’s Leinster U21HC decider, but despite Offaly bursting out of the blocks with real intensity it was the Dubs who deservedly secured their place in next month’s All Ireland semi-final, Treacy grabbing 2-2.
A substantial crowd of 4,709 filed into the Tullamore venue, the vast majority of them hoping to see the home side win their first Leinster hurling title at any level for 16 years, and the early stages of the contest suggested the side that arrived at this decider through the easier side of the draw, beating Kildare and Carlow, might very well pull off a shock upset.
Offaly’s defensive work was superb, with Ben Conneely marshalling the threat posed by Dublin’s Chris Bennett extremely well while Paddy Delaney and Dan Doughan also stood out, while up front the pairing of Óisín Kelly and Emmet Nolan fared extremely well in the face of three Dublin full backs.
Offaly’s star duo came into this game with nine goals in their two outings so far and they rounded that up to a perfect 10 when Nolan earned a penalty that Kelly fired home after 12 minutes. Nolan also picked off a couple of excellent points from play while it was fully 28 minutes before Dublin scored through any channel other than a Chris Bennett placed ball – their point coming from Cian Mac Gabhann after he was picked out by a magnificent sideline cut by Andrew Jamieson-Murphy.
A 1-6 to 0-5 interval lead looked healthy in the context of a low scoring encounter but a transformed Dublin side took just 90 seconds to eradicate that advantage and set themselves up with a strong foundation for victory.
Jamieson-Murphy posted the first of his four second-half points from play with just 13 seconds on the clock, exploiting space in a way that Offaly simply didn’t allow in the opening 30 minutes, while Treacy rattled the home net a little over a minute later.
Treacy’s low finish was incredibly precise and while Offaly responded well with two frees, all the momentum was now with Dublin.
The younger brother of Dublin senior hurler David Treacy struck again after 40 minutes when he claimed a high ball and kicked it past Eoghan Cahill from eight metres to give Dublin their first lead of the game, a lead that they never relinquished.
A series of bad wides, six in the second-half and 12 in all, left Offaly in contention but the Dubs finally found their rhythm at the start of the final quarter, firing over four points in a five minute to confirm their win.
D Murray 0-5 (0-4f), O Kelly 1-0 pen, E Nolan 0-2, C Doughan (f) & L Langton 0-1 each.
S Treacy 2-2 (0-1f, 0-1 ’65), C Bennett (0-3f, 0-1 ’65) & A Jamieson-Murphy 0-4 each, J Malone 0-2, C Mac Gabhann, R McBride & S O’Ríain 0-1 each.
E Cahill; C Doughan, D O’Toole-Greene, P Delaney; D Healy, B Conneely, D Doughan; D Wyer, P Guinan; J O’Toole-Greene, D Murray, R Hughes; A Cleary, E Nolan, O Kelly.
C O’Brien for Healy (19), C Freeman for Cleary (44), JP Cleary for Hughes (51), L Langton for Wyer (53), E Parlon for Guinan (60+2) DUBLIN: J Treacy; J Madden, E O’Donnell, C Hendricken; S Barrett, C Mac Gabhann, J Bellew; J Malone, M McCallion; A Jamieson-Murphy, R McBride, E Conroy; S Treacy, S O’Riain, C Bennett.
C Boland for McCallion (23), C O’Neill for Bennett (44), P O’Dea for Hendricken (51), F Ó’Ríain Broin for Malone (55), E McHugh for Conroy (57)
Alfie Devine (Westmeath)