Offaly 1-17 Carlow 2-11
Crisis-hit Offaly restored some pride with a battling, if uninspiring win over Carlow in the Leinster SHC Round Robin series at Tullamore.
Following their mauling at the hands of Westmeath a week earlier, Eamonn Kelly’s men were under pressure to deliver, and while the result was a strong positive, confidence levels appear delicate and vulnerable.
Shane Dooley’s 1-10 haul carried the home side through, and masked a litany of problem areas which will have to be ironed out by this once great hurling county.
Carlow lost their discipline in the closing stages, with two straight red cards reducing them to 13 men, and with those dismissals went their chances of taking a result in a dull contest played in front of just 950 spectators.
Offaly skipper Colin Egan was ruled out by a rib injury sustained in training, and his assured presence at the heart of their defence was sorely missed during a difficult opening spell which saw Carlow ease into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead.
Seamus Murphy, Sean Murphy and James Doyle all fired over early points, and the Barrowsiders were able to expose a lack of communication and cohesion, with Kevin McDonald beating his man easily to swing over a score, before
James Doyle galloped through virtually unchallenged to send over his second.
But Pat Camon began to see some reward for his selfless efforts around the middle, and Offaly in turn were able to exploit uncertainty in the Carlow defence.
Shane Dooley punished a lack of discipline to rifle over a string of frees, and also converted an exquisite sideline cut.
The home side were three points clear by the 28th minute and looking much more assured as they swept forward with conviction.
But they were always vulnerable at the back, and were punished in the 29th minute when Seamus Murphy slipped a pass to Ross Smithers, who drilled a firmly struck shot to the bottom corner of the net past James Dempsey.
McDonalds’s free sent the visitors in with a 1-7 to 0-9 lead, and after missing a host of chances at the start of the second half, they stunned the home side with a second goal, scrambled home by Kevin McDonald in the 44th minute.
But Dooley hit back with a goal inside 30 seconds, finishing from close range after Joe Bergin had made the driving run through the heart of the Carlow defence.
Two Paddy Murphy points helped them open out a three points advantage heading into the final 15 minutes, but Carlow goalkeeper Brian Treacy kept his side in it with fine saves from Dooley and Jason Sampson.
Carlow lost two men to straight red cards in the final five minutes, the influential Diarmuid Byrne followed to the line by substitute Hugh Paddy O’Byrne.
And they also had goalkeeper Dempsey red-carded by referee James McGrath after the final whistle.
Offaly: J Dempsey, P Rigney, D Shortt, C McDonald, D Mooney, S Gardiner, D King, P Camon, S Cleary, S Kinsella, J Bergin (0-2, 1f), C Kelly, P Murphy (0-2), S Dooley (1-10, 6f, 1 ’65, 1 s/l), K Connolly (0-1).
Subs: J Mulrooney (0-2) for Kelly, P Guinan for Cleary, J Sampson for Connolly
Carlow: B Treacy, G Coady, M Ryan, A Corcoran, D Byrne (0-1), R Coady, J O’Hara, J Doyle (0-3), R Kelly, S Murphy (1-1), M Kavanagh, K McDonald (0-2, 1f), JM Nolan (0-1), S Murphy (0-1), R Smithers (1-0).
Subs: D Murphy (0-2, 1f) for McDonald, HP O’Byrne for Nolan, C Lawlor for Kelly
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).