It wasn’t a day, event or venue for the making or breaking of names, but the Kilkenny effort could be classed as good.
Offaly will have been pleased to have registered a win over the All-Ireland champions, Kilkenny, albeit a shadow side in the Walsh Cup, and the benefit won’t do their confidence any harm.
But with nine under-21 players on show at wet and cold Birr on Sunday, and on a pitch that was awfully heavy and demanding, Kilkenny won’t be losing any sleep over the outcome.
The day and conditions, plus the soft ground, dragged down this Walsh Cup clash into a tough and physical 70 minutes of effort, effort, effort.
The contest was far removed from ‘a tell all or even a little’ clash, apart from showing guys who can really gut it out when the occasion requires.
In this regard, new Offaly manager Eamon Kelly might be very pleased with the showings of the likes of Conor Doughan, Shane Kinsella, Joey O’Connor, Shane Dooley, James Mulrooney and, of course, Gorman, all of whom could be classed as big men.
Early indicators would suggest that whatever side Offaly end up with this season it won’t be a small team!
“You had to be delighted with the effort of the players. It wasn’t an easy day to play hurling,” insisted stand-in Kilkenny manager, Eddie Brennan, the under-21 team manager.
“With a few from the senior panel helping to boost the under-21 players available the overall effort was good. About 10 minutes from the end we had a chance of winning, which wasn’t bad.”
Victory earned Offaly a place in the semi-finals against Wexford next weekend.
Nine minutes from the end wind assisted Kilkenny had dragged themselves to within an inch of sneaking a win after being led virtually all the way.
Jonjo Farrell (free), sub Niall Mullins with a fine strike from midfield after an assist by the busy Ollie Walsh, and Mullinavat’s Michael Malone all put points together to drag Kilkenny back into the match after a bad period, and to level affairs at 1-9 each.
The Cats had a chance to hit the front, but Jonjo Farrell shot wide.
For a while there was real excitement in the venue as the near 2,000 crowd warmed to the on field happenings.
With less than five minutes remaining Offaly sub, James Gorman struck gold.
Goal close range
Midfielder Joey O’Connor floated in a cross from 40 metres on the left wing, and Gorman zipped in to touch the ball home from the edge of the square.
Six minutes one, the first one of additional time, Gorman found the net again, this time touching home a right wing cross from Shane Dooley.
The first goal as good as decided the match. The second one put it beyond redemption.
From the throw-in the players sank into the soft ground, and the hurling was close and physical.
On five minutes Paddy Murphy and Sean Cleary strung together a few passes to get James Mulrooney in the clear at the town end, and he lashed the ball into the net. Minutes later Shane Dooley pointed an Offaly free.
Kilkenny hit back smartly, drawing level by the 12th minute thanks to scores from Michael Kenny (free) and a goal by Billy Ryan following good approach work by Walsh and Jonjo Farrell, who provided the lay-off for the scorer.
The Cats had two decent goal chances during this half, but goalie James Dempsey brought off good stops from good ball winner, Farrell in the 15th and 24th minutes. The second was an outstanding save, with Dempsey diving low to his right to keep the ball out.
When half-time was reached the home side led 1-5 to 1-2. Free taker Michael Kenny bagged the two points for the losers.
Scores from Ciaran Ryan and Brian Kennedy brought Kilkenny to within a score of the opposition by the 37th minute.
The divide was the same in the 50th minute (1-7 to 1-6) and then it looked as if Offaly would sprint for home when scores from Shane Dooley (2) edged them 1-9 to 1-6 in front 12 minutes remaining.
Two scores in as many minutes for Kilkenny from Jonjo Farrell (free) and Niall Mullins were followed by the equaliser from Michael Malone (1-9 each).
As Good As It Got
That was as good as it got for Kilkenny. Offaly enjoyed the better of things from there to the finish.
This was a decent showing from Kilkenny, all things considered, with Lester Ryan, Shane Prendergast and Brian Kennedy the most obvious and best performers in defence.
Ollie Walsh struck some nice ball in midfield, but Jonjo Farrell looked the only one likely to hurt the opposition up front, especially through his ability to create and win dirty ball.
Kilkenny next outing will be a more serious affair in the Allianz National League. They travel to Walsh Park to face Waterford on Sunday, February 14.
SCORERS: Offaly - Shane Dooley (0-7, frees); James Gorman (2-0); James Mulrooney (1-0); Conor Doughan (0-1, free); Joey O’Connor (0-1). Kilkenny - Billy Ryan (1-0); Brian Kennedy (0-2, frees); Michael Kenny (0-2, frees); Ciaran Ryan, Michael Malone, Mark Kelly, Niall Mullins (0-1 each); Jonjo Farrell (0-1, free).
Kilkenny - Aaron Duggan (Dicksboro); Conor Delaney (Erin’s Own), Shane Prendergast (Clara), Ciaran Wallace (Erin’s Own), Brian Kennedy (St Lachtain’s), Lester Ryan (Clara), Pat Lyng (Rower-Inistioge), Ollie Walsh (Dicksboro), Johnny Hayes (Kilmacow), Luke Scanlon (James Stephens), Michael Malone (Mullinavat), Mark Kelly (O’Loughlin Gaels), Michael Kenny (Lisdowney), Jonjo Farrell (Thomastown), Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan). Subs - Ciaran Ryan (Rower-Inistioge) for M. Kenny; Conor Browne (James Stephens) for Scanlon; Niall Mullins (James Stephens) for J. Hayes; J.P. Treacy (Young Irelands) for O. Walsh.
Offaly - James Dempsey, Niall Wynne, Brian Leonard, Paddy Rigney, Dermot Mooney, Conor Doughan, Pat Camon, Shane Kinsella, Joey O’Connor, Paddy Murphy, Colin Egan, Jason Sampson, Shane Dooley, James Mulrooney, Sean Cleary. subs - James Gorman for J. Sampson; Brendan Murphy for S. Cleary; Stephen Quirke for P. Murphy; Gary Conneely for J. O'Connor; Fergus Hannon for J. Mulrooney.
Referee - Alfie Devine (Westmeath).