Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-20 Hurling Championship quarter-final
OFFALY 2-25 KILDARE 1-16
Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park
A nip and tuck first half gave way to an Offaly landslide in the second at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore tonight, as the home side recorded a 12-point win over Kildare to set up a semi-final clash with Leinster U-20 champions Dublin next week.
Kildare qualified for this contest thanks to a sensational win over Wexford a week ago, which was largely built on energy, powerful running, and surgical precision from Liam Dempsey with his freetaking. The Lily Whites looked to follow the same template tonight in Tullamore and for the opening 30 minutes, it worked as they caused plenty of problems for Offaly.
Dempsey shot nine of Kildare’s first half points, but the opportunities were created by some excellent hard running by fellow attackers like Daragh Melville and Ferran O’Sullivan, who were very strong in possession and looked to take on their direct opponent at every possible opportunity.
Offaly had a more varied scoring threat, and picked off some superb scores from range in a half of hurling that ended 0-11 each, with neither team leading by more than two points at any stage. DJ McLoughlin, Cian Burke and Luke Egan all shot magnificent points from distance for the home side, but they were needed to match Kildare’s regular scoring at the other end, which was built on a platform of possession that was established thanks to some very solid play at half back.
A fine score from Muiris Curtin to start the second half pushed Kildare into the lead with just 60 seconds gone, but Offaly upped the ante considerably from there and went on to shoot six points in succession to establish a commanding lead. Wing forward DJ McLoughlin scored one and earned another free, while the decision to move Luke Nolan to midfield and send his Birr club colleague Joe Ryan to full forward paid huge dividends as both players had a much bigger influence on the game thereafter.
Kildare rallied for a short period either side of the water break and outscored Offaly by 0-4 to 0-2 in that period, the highlight a marvellous shot off his knees by Cathal McCabe, but just when it looked as if they might grind their way back into the game, Luke Nolan went on a mazy run and turned down the easy option of snapping the ball over the bar, instead drawing out the full back and lobbing the sliothar over the goalkeeper to the far post, where DJ McLoughlin was left with a simple tap in goal in the 50th minute.
That score effectively broke Kildare’s resistance and Offaly started to pick off points with a bit more ease, Charlie Mitchell adding three to his tally as reward for a lively and industrious performance, while Joe Ryan also got a goal to his name in the last minute of normal time.
One last Kildare attack resulted in a consolation goal for substitute David Qualter, before referee Caymon Flynn drew a line under a contest that was far more one-sided that anyone would have predicted, either before the game or halfway through it.
Offaly: Adam Fitzgerald; Peter Cleary, Padraic Watkins, Conor Hardiman; Luke Egan (0-01), Killian Sampson, Dara Maher; Joe Ryan (1-01), Cian Burke (0-01); Jack Screeney (0-12, 0-11 frees), Luke Nolan, DJ McLoughlin (1-03); Charlie Mitchell (0-04), Tom Dooley (0-02), Niall Lyons.
Subs: Luke Carey (0-01) for Lyons (42), Gearóid McCormack for Burke (51), Ronan Cleary for Dooley (52), Sam Bourke for McLoughlin (59), Joe Hoctor for Nolan (59).
Kildare: Sean Burke; Peter O’Donoghue, John McKeown, Matthew Eustace; Rossa Stapleton, Cian Shanahan, Paul Dolan; Conan Boran, Harry Dunne; Muiris Curtin (0-01), Liam Dempsey (0-11 frees), Cathal McCabe (0-01); Daragh Melville (0-02), Ferran O’Sullivan, Conor Treacy.
Subs: David Qualter (1-00) for Melville (39), Jack Higgins (0-01) for O’Sullivan (42), Ciarán Flanagan for Treacy (46), Conn Kehoe for Curtin (57), Alan Goss for Shanahan (59).
Referee: Caymon Flynn (Westmeath)