Things were a bit more complicated than most observers would have suggested they might have been, but champions Kilkenny came up with the goods in the end and marched into the Leinster championship senior hurling semi-finals.
Offaly, big hearted and brave, got off to a terrific start in Tullamore yesterday and their ability to score goals kept them in the match and heaped trouble on the champions. However, in the end they were beaten by 0-26 to 4-9.
The winners now face Wexford or Dublin, who drew on Saturday evening, in the semi-finals on June 23.
A goal after 40 seconds by Colin Egan gave Offaly a dream start. A second goal from Joe Bergin on 13 minutes pushed them 2-2 to 0-4 ahead.
Kilkenny didn’t make much headway up front, but thanks to eight points from Eoin Larkin they were a mere 0-11 to 2-6 down at the break.
Kilkenny hit Offaly for five unanswered points during the five minutes immediately after the break. Larkin, T.J. Reid, Richie Power (2) and Lester Ryan all grabbed scores as the midlanders were put under backbreaking pressure.
The Cats pushed on and extended their lead to 0-22 to 2-8 – their best of the game – by the 57th minute, but late Offaly goals from Dan Currams (63rd minute) and an own goal nearing the finish left the teams closer than was expected.
Scorers: Kilkenny – Eoin Larkin (0-11, 10 frees, one 65); Richie Power (0-4, one free); Richie Hogan (0-3); Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Lester Ryan, Colin Fennelly, T.J. Reid, Aidan Fogarty, Walter Walsh, Matthew Ruth (0-1 each). Offaly – Colin Egan (1-2); Shane Dooley (0-5, four frees, one 65); Brian Carroll (1-1); Joe Bergin (1-0); 1-0 (og); Chris McDonald (0-1).
Kilkenny – Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Kieran Joyce, Lester Ryan, Michael Rice, T.J. Reid, Richie Power, Eoin Larkin, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan, Aidan Fogarty. Subs – Conor Fogarty for Tyrrell (inj) 6th min; Walter Walsh for Fogarty 33rd min; Cillian Buckley for Reid 56th min; Matthew Ruth for Larkin 56th min; Paddy Hogan for Rice 58th min.
Offaly – James Dempsey, Chris McDonald, David Kenny (capt), Dermot Mooney, Rory Hanniffy, Ger Healion, Cathal Parlon, Brian Carroll, Kevin Brady, Ciarán Slevin, Conor Mahon, Sean Cleary, Shane Dooley, Colin Egan, Joe Bergin. Subs – Dan Currams for S. Cleary ht; Derek Molloy for C. Mahon 43rd min; Tomás Carroll for C. Slevin 51st min; Sean Ryan for K. Brady 51st min.
Referee – Alan Kelly (Galway).
Attendance – 8,337.