The Offaly hurlers’ march back up the national pecking order looks set to continue next weekend after they recorded yet another landslide victory in the Christy Ring Cup on Saturday afternoon, this time against Wicklow in the semi-final.
Their 6-30 to 0-11 win at Bord na Mona O'Connor Park was their sixth in league and championship this year, all by double figure margins at least.
Any chance of a momentous upset was probably scratched once Ciarán Breen got an early red card for Wicklow and Offaly duly piled on the scores, with Oisin Kelly (2), Brian Duignan, Killian Sampson and Leon Fox all scoring goals to move them 20 points ahead at the break.
Michael Fennelly emptied the bench as the contest descended into a pedestrian affair that was little more than shooting practice, with captain Ben Conneely adding their sixth goal late on.
Derry will be Offaly’s opponents in the decider after they overcame Sligo by 0-28 to 2-17 at Owenbeg.
Captain Cormac O’Doherty shot 0-12 over the course of the contest and alongside Gerald Bradley, they led the Derry attack to an 0-16 to 1-7 interval lead. Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch grabbed Sligo’s goal and when Joe McHugh added another early in the second half, the Connacht side were right back in the contest. However the winners settled, with Odhrán McKeever and Sé McGuigan chipping in to balance the threat of O’Doherty and Bradley and keep Derry’s noses in front throughout.
A competitive first half of action in the Nickey Rackard Cup semi-final between Mayo and Armagh gave no indication of the one-sided fare that was to follow after the interval at Avant Money Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada.
Armagh goals from goalkeeper Simon Doherty (penalty) and Fionntán Donnelly in reply to Cathal Freeman’s early green flag for Mayo helped Armagh to a 2-5 to 1-7 interval lead, but Mayo stepped on the gas after the restart and piled on the points, with Keith Higgins finishing with 0-11.
Aidan Philips goaled late in the game to make it 2-23 to 2-9 at the final whistle and set up a final clash with Tyrone, who overcame defending champions Donegal by 2-23 to 1-21 at Carrickmore.
Conor Grogan and Cain Ferguson scored the goals for the Red Hands in the first half and some outstanding scores from Grogan after half time kept them in front, though they had to withstand a flurry of late Donegal goal chances to prevail.
Meanwhile, Cavan will play in the Lory Meagher Cup final for the first time thanks to a 1-21 to 0-20 win over holders Louth at Kingspan Breffni.
Louth shot five points in a row to move 0-19 to 0-15 ahead with a little over five minutes remaining, but Cavan produced a late surge to draw level, then got their vital break when a long-range shot from Brian Fitzgerald went all the way to the Louth net. Late points from Seán Keating and Kevin Conneely sealed the win.
Their opponents will be Fermanagh, who travelled to Longford and picked up a 1-21 to 1-13 win, with Tom Keenan grabbing their goal.