Cats stayed cool as Offaly turned up the heat

It may have been one of the hottest days of the year, but as far as Eoin Larkin was concerned Sunday’s battle with Offaly called for cool heads.

It may have been one of the hottest days of the year, but as far as Eoin Larkin was concerned Sunday’s battle with Offaly called for cool heads.

“We knew it was going to be tough coming to Tullamore, but we were ready for that,” he said. “They got a great start with the goal but the game lasts for 70 minutes - you can only lose it when it’s over.

“There was no need for panic, but we were able to chip away at Offaly’s lead and go in a point down at half-time,” he said. “After that we came out for the second half and got the first few scores, then kicked on from there.

Colin Egan’s first minute goal might have unsettled some teams - Joe Bergin’s thundering 13th minute effort certainly would. However, the Cats never panicked. Was that the calibre of champions?

“Experience over the years certainly helped us at stages against Offaly,” said Larkin. “Although the younger players have been there for a few seasons too, I’d like to think the older lads have been passing on that bit of knowledge to help us through.

“We were ready for the challenge - we knew that we were going to have our work cut out for us,” he added. “That first half goals confirmed to us that Offaly were up for the game, so we had to dig deep and keep going.”

Kilkenny certainly kicked on at the vital stage in the game. An impressive run of eight unanswered points either side of half-time helped to kill off that Offaly momentum.

“If they had come out in the second half and scored four or five points in a row they would have been well in front,” he said. “It was important for us to get the first few scores which, thankfully we were able to do.”

A third Offaly goal midway through the second half brought the Faithful County back into the game but once more the unflappable Cats were quick to stop that rally.

“We were seven points up when they got the goal,” Larkin recalled. “We still had a four point lead after that so there was no need to panic. The lads got a few scores to push us on, and even though Offaly got a fourth goal near the end we were at arm’s length by then.”

Sunday’s quarter-final was a testing encounter, but the James Stephens man reckoned there was no better way to start the championship.

“That’s what you’re always looking for - a good tough game to start the championship,” he said. “We made a few mistakes but that gives us plenty to work on for the semi-final in a fortnight.”