KILKENNY’S senior All-Ireland hopes suffered a massive setback on Saturday as they crashed to their fourth consecutive defeat in as many weeks.
If Kilkenny are to qualify for the championship semi-finals on August 18 they will have to do it the hard way. They must beat Dublin next weekend, then get the better of league champions Cork on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
It was always going to be a difficult year for Brendan Williams, Paul Quigley and John Kenneally having lost 17 of last year’s panel, with a further 13 members of this year’s squad new to camogie at senior inter-county level.
Kilkenny made a bad start to the play-off and trailed by 1-2 to 0-0 after just seven minutes.
After a tame Tina Hannon shot was sent in goalwards, Kilkenny failing to cope with the ensuing scramble. Jean Brady got an initial touch on the sliotar, which was forced over the line by Arlene Watkins.
Offaly maintained that five point gap up to the 20-minute mark (1-4 to 0-2) and looked set to build on it, were rocked when Kilkenny produced a purple patch, rattling off 1-4 in four minutes.
Katie Power got the ball rolling with a well taken goal in the 22nd minute, the score coming after good work involving Miriam Walsh and Michelle Quilty. Power then tacked on a brace of points which, coupled with scores from Walsh and club-mate Noelle Maher, pushed the Cats into a 1-6 to 1-4 lead.
Although the ever-lively Michaela Morkan hit back with a point from play, Kilkenny still had the upper hand at half-time (Kilkenny 1-6, Offaly 1-5).
The lead was doubled early in the second half as Aoife Neary pointed a brace of frees either side a placed ball effort from Offaly’s star performer Siobhan Flannery.
However, Offaly responded with four unanswered points from Flannery between the 37th and 46th minutes (two from play) to take the advantage once more (1-10 to 1-8).
The decisive score came in the 47th minute when a long Catriona Ryan puck-out was fielded by the highly impressive Sheila Sullivan.
The corner-back Sullivan sent a long ball goalwards to Elaine Dermody, who managed to wriggle clear of Catherine Doherty before blasting the ball to the net (2-10 to 1-8).
Although Neary added a brace of frees to narrow the deficit Offaly kicked on. Points from Dermody (free), Flannery and Arlene Watkins secured victory.
Miriam Walsh - once again Kilkenny’s best player - pointed from play in injury-time to conclude the scoring in what was Kilkenny’s only score from play during the second half.
It was a deserved victory for Offaly. As for Kilkenny, they need a miracle to keep their championship hopes alive.
SCORERS: Offaly - Siobhan Flannery (0-7, 0-3 frees), Elaine Dermody (1-3, 0-2 frees), Arlene Watkins (1-1), Michaela Morkan (0-3). Kilkenny - Katie Power (1-2), Aoife Neary (0-5, frees), Miriam Walsh (0-3), Noelle Maher (0-1).
Offaly - E. Clebdennen, K. Brady, T. McDonald, S. Sullivan, L. Sullivan, L. Keena, M. Crean, S. Flannery, F. Stephens, T. Hannon, M. Morkan, J. Brady, A. Kelly, E. Dermody, A. Watkins. Subs: O. Kirwan, E. Mooney.
Kilkenny - C. Ryan, C. Shiel, C. Doherty, R. Jones, K. McDonald, E. Aylward, J. Frisby, G. Walsh, K. Power, N. Maher, M. Quilty, A. Neary, M. Walsh. Subs: K. Hamilton, E. Mulhall.
Referee - O. Elliott (Antrim).