IN the same weekend the movie The Hangover II was released, it was fitting Dublin’s hurlers were presented with the possibility of having their party crashed for the second time in 10 months.
Last year, Antrim rained on their parade to reach an All-Ireland quarter-final. Full of confidence after beating Clare the week previous, Anthony Daly’s side were six points ahead and cruising with 20 minutes remaining before disaster and Karl Stewart struck.
Yesterday, they were two better with an hour gone on the clock. They had the numerical advantage when Derek Molloy was shown a second yellow card in as many minutes for a foul on Conal Keaney. And yet somehow they sat back and put the feet up again. Daly acknowledged it: “I think the sending off was the signal for our boys to switch off and say ‘ah, we’ve won it now.’”
Following the league final win over Kilkenny, defeat could have done irrevocable damage to the resolve of a team considered All-Ireland contenders in some quarters.
Between the 60th and 68 minutes, Offaly outscored their hosts by six points to one with the likes of Joe Bergin (two), Dylan Hayden and Daniel Currams taking the scoring burden from Shane Dooley.
Among the disappointing 14,302 crowd at Croke Park, the travelling fans sensed their team could go one better than the draw against Galway in last year’s campaign.
But the wind was sucked from their sails when sub Peadar Carton struck Dublin’s second goal in the final minute of normal time, smashing the ball to the top right corner of James Dempsey’s net.
Dooley’s close-range free after the Dublin goal rose above the bar, and Offaly’s game was up.
Dublin had begun ablaze with Paul Ryan bouncing his penalty to the net in the second minute after David O’Callaghan was fouled by Dempsey. Alan McCrabbe opened the scoring just a minute earlier with a contentious point but there was nothing fortunate about his team’s early salvos. Dooley’s frees and a Colin Egan point had Offaly hanging on but it was the home team who were scoring with ease, Ryan O’Dwyer taking a beautiful reverse hand-pass from Ryan to convert.
By the 13th minute, it was 1-5 to 0-4 in Dublin’s favour with Keaney, an omnipresent force all day, getting his only score of the game.
Molloy then had a close-range free saved and Dublin drove on again, twice going ahead by six with Dáire Plunkett and Conor McCormack points either side of a Dooley free.
But aside from a Ryan free in the 32nd minute, Offaly finished the half stronger with Dooley grabbing three points, two from frees, and a peach of a goal. In space on the right wing from a David Kenny long ball, Dooley sprinted towards goal and finished with aplomb.
Ahead by just one point, (1-9 to 1-8), at the break, Daly had plenty to shout about in the dressing room at the break. As he pointed out afterwards, they were nine-three down in the turnover stakes too.
A Dooley point from play had Offaly level after the resumption but it only served to prompt Dublin into another scoring spree. Dublin totted up three points in five minutes, a couple of Ryan frees and another McCrabbe score.
Dooley broke the pattern with a 45th-minute free but not their momentum as they added another five in an eight-minute spell. Sub Simon Lambert got the bout under way and he was followed by McCormack, another Ryan free, Shane Durkan and a delightful O’Callaghan shot.
Bergin halted the Dublin score-rush before O’Callaghan struck again to make it 1-19 to 1-12, Keaney once more the provider.
The former Blues footballer then took the blow that earned Molloy his second caution and the resultant free which Ryan arrowed over. What followed was a second mini-collapse but Carton’s goal arrested it. Daly will have learned plenty about his team here. Bereft of Tomás Brady and Joey Boland, they weren’t going to be as tight a defensive unit as they had been in the league. He knows they can pull away from teams but maintaining leads is the key.
As Joe Dooley said: “I don’t think Galway have too many injuries so Dublin will be up against it.”
Scorers for Dublin: P Ryan 1-8, (1-0 pen, seven frees); A McCrabbe 0-3; P Carton 1-0; C McCormack, R O’Dwyer, D O’Callaghan 0-2 each; C Keaney, D Plunkett, S Durkan, S Lambert 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 1-13 (1-11 frees); J Bergin 0-3; C Egan, C Mahon, D Hayden, D Currams 0-1 each.
Subs for Dublin: S Lambert for O’Brien (ht); D Treacy for O’Callaghan (temp 41-47); Treacy for Plunkett (56); D O’Dwyer for McCormack (60); D Curtin for McCrabbe (63).
Subs for Offaly: C Parlon for Carroll (inj 10); J Mulrooney for Egan (56).
Referee: J Sexton (Cork)
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