Offaly into Walsh Cup semis

Offaly 4-13 Down 2-12

Offaly 4-13 Down 2-12

Offaly's hurlers withstood a late comeback by Down in tonight's Walsh Cup quarter-final at Darver to ensure a place in the penultimate stage against Wexford.

Faithfuls boss Joe Dooley handed senior inter-county debuts to four players including Diarmuid Horan, son of former All-Ireland medallist Padraig.

The midlanders held a 2-12 to 1-4 half-time lead after being assisted by a strong wind in the first half.

It was first-half goals from Daniel Currams and former Galway minor Francis Kerrigan that did most of the damage as Offaly held the edge over the opening 35 minutes.

Down were far from pushovers and good work from Stephen Clarke and first half goal-scorer Brendan Ennis ensured that the Ulster side kept in touch.

However Jim McKernan's men really bounced back strongly in the second half thanks to some very effective play from substitute Kevin McGarry, Clarke and Paddy Coulter, as Offaly were left stunned.

Down managed to hold Offaly to just 2-1 in the second half, with that second goal being their only score of the final quarter.

A resilient Down attack exerted huge pressure on the Offaly backs who struggled to cope with this renewed energy.

Down burst out of the blocks in the second half and were guilty of three wides inside the first four minutes, but suddenly settled thanks to a point from substitute Kevin McGarry.

Stephen Clarke tagged on a pointed free and although Kerrigan rattled the net for the second time for Offaly in the 47th-minute, a determined Down outfit kept plugging away.

Clarke and Paul Braniff picked off excellent points before Paddy Coulter cut the gap to seven points with a well-taken goal, after he flicked the ball to the net from a long puck-out from Graham Clarke.

Down did manage to whittle Offaly's lead down to five points with 12 minutes remaining, but Dooley's side succeeded in holding on for the victory, thanks to a late goal from substitute Joe Brady.

OFFALY: D Kilmartin; C Hernon, K Brady, D Franks; D Horan, J Bergin (0-1, 0-1f), D Kenny; C Mahon, B Teehan (0-2); S Dooley (0-4, 0-3f), G Oakley (0-2), J Gorman; D Currams (1-1), D Molloy (0-1), F Kerrigan (2-2).

Subs used: D Murray for D Molloy (42 mins), J Brady (1-0) for Gorman (54), J Rigney for Teehan (57).

DOWN: G Clarke; L Clarke, F Conway, P Hughes; S Wilson, C Courtney, G Clarke; A Savage, C Coulter (0-1, 0-1f), S Clarke (0-5, 0-3f), B McGourty, D Coffey; B Ennis (1-1), P Braniff (0-2), P Coulter (1-0).

Subs used: E Clarke for S Clare (26-28 mins, blood sub), K McGarry (0-2) for Coffey (26), R McGrattan for C Coulter (43), M Ennis for G Clarke (50), C Woods for McGarry (54), J Coyle (0-1) for B Ennis (61).

Referee: Frank Devereaux (Kildare)

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