BÓRD GÁIS ENERGY LEINSTER U-20 HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINAL
Dublin 2-16, Offaly 0-16
Kevin Egan at St. Brendan’s Park
Second half goals from Darach McBride and Kevin Desmond settled a nip and tuck contest that looked to be heading right down to the wire in Birr this afternoon, just when it looked as if Offaly might be poised to secure a second U-20 championship win over Dublin in as many seasons.
Dublin manager Paul O’Brien was short a couple of key dual players on account of the U-20 football championship final, but it looked in the early stages as if that wasn’t going to trouble them as they eased into an 0-5 to no score lead. Dublin’s complete and total control of the Offaly puckout, allied to their far greater accuracy in front of goal and their control of key Offaly dangermen set a solid platform on which they could build a lead and at the first half water break it looked as if their path to a semi-final clash with Wexford would be a smooth one.
Darragh Power was hugely influential at midfield, hurling a lot of ball at both ends of St. Brendan’s Park, and while Dublin struggled to make inroads into a strong Offaly back line, a series of frees from Liam Murphy helped them build an advantage.
By the start of the 19th minute, Offaly had just a single score on the board – that tally increased to four in the space of the next three minutes, with Kevin McDermott, Cathal Kiely and Rory Carty all on the mark.
Again Dublin edged clear with a brace of frees from Murphy but Offaly came back again thanks to a strong performance in the tackle, and by half time they trailed by just two, 0-7 to 0-9, having shot seven wides to Dublin’s one in the opening half.
Cathal Donoghue cut the gap to the bare minimum with a fine score from the left wing immediately after half time, but Dublin always looked sharp up front, playing some good heads-up hurling. Two scores in a minute from Micheál Murphy restored their lead, and they still led by three coming up to the second half water break.
Cathal Kiely, who scored 0-20 in last year’s remarkable win for the Faithful men in Parnell Park, was visibly impeded by a groin injury and he struggled to influence the game from open play, but his freetaking continued to be a huge weapon for the home side. At one stage he struck a score from inside his own 45m line, into the slight breeze, and right out on the sideline, making it 0-14 to 0-13 with ten minutes to play. The next score from Brian Duignan tied up the game, and it was Offaly with all the momentum.
The big swing moment of the game followed. A long ball into the Dublin full back line was well dealt with by Eddie Gibbons and Tommy Kinnane, and they won a free out from their own square. A thunderous puck of a ball from Gibbons later, and play was at the other end of the field. A Dublin body emerged from a ruck of players, got a handpass away to Darach McBride, and in the time it took to swing his stick, the net was rippling.
Again Offaly replied through Kiely, but by now they had to chase the game, and gaps were left at the back. One such opening allowed Kevin Desmond to sneak in and fire in a second goal, and that was enough to see Dublin through what proved to be a very tricky assignment, far more so than the final margin of six points might suggest.
Scorers for Dublin: Liam Murphy 0-5f, Darach McBride 1-1 (0-1 sideline), Eddie Gibbons 0-3f, Kevin Desmond 1-0, Tommy Kinnane & Micheál Murphy 0-2 each, Billy Ryan, Darragh Power & Pádhraic Linehan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Cathal Kiely 0-10 (0-7f, 0-2 65s), Killian Sampson, Kevin McDermott, Rory Carty, Cathal Donoghue, Cathal O’Meara, Brian Duignan 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: Eddie Gibbons; Tommy Kinnane, Andrew Dunphy, Brian Sheehy; Iain Ó Heither, Kevin Burke, Enda O’Donnell; Darragh Power, Mark Sweeney; Darach McBride, Michéal Murphy; Luke McDwyer; Dara Purcell, Billy Ryan, Liam Murphy.
Subs: Kevin Desmond for Purcell (36), Pádhraic Linehan for Ryan (47), Donal Leavy for Power (54), Michael Conroy for O’Donnell (58), Liam Dunne for McDwyer (59).
OFFALY: Eamonn Cleary; Rory Carty, Conor Butler, Dara Maher; Ross Ravenhill, Pádraig Cantwell, Jack Screeney; Luke Nolan, Kevin McDermott; Killian Sampson, Cathal Donoghue, Brian Duignan; Cathal O’Meara, Cathal Kiely, Cathal Flynn.
Subs: Lochlainn Kavanagh for Donoghue (47), Niall Lyons for Flynn (55), Morgan Watkins for O’Meara (55), Cathal Brady for Duignan (58)