O’Neills Leinster U-20HC Quarter-Final
Kevin Egan reports from Glenisk O’Connor Park
Offaly’s resurgence as a hurling power took another huge step forward with a six-point win over Galway in the Leinster U-20 championship quarter-final this afternoon, while there will be further questions in Galway about their development pathway after the 2020 All-Ireland minor winners crashed out of the championship at the first hurdle, meaning that out of the four teams that won All-Ireland minor titles from 2017 through to 2020, they’ve won just one Leinster and no All-Irelands at U-20 level.
This was expected to be a bridge too far and too soon for an Offaly side where seven of the 18 players that saw action were part of last year’s minor group.
Yet right from the start, the home side’s workrate and tenacity disrupted Galway, while the tactic of dropping both Shane Rigney and Dan Bourke into covering roles around half-back and midfield ensured that they reduced Galway to shooting from distance, with only Darren Shaughnessy making any impression close to goal.
Adam Screeney set up Shane Rigney for Offaly’s opening goal after 12 minutes and the prospect of an upset win was really opened up when good work from Charlie Mitchell and Dan Bourke gave Joe Hoctor the chance to fire in Offaly’s second goal eight minutes before half-time.
2-8 to 0-9 in front at the interval, Offaly were rocked after half-time when Galway drew level with a quickfire 1-2, Ruben Davitt firing in the goal and a point, but a majestic score from Screeney on the right wing, followed up by two points in 30 seconds from Rigney and Mitchell, pushed momentum back Offaly’s way.
A lengthy injury stoppage which saw wing back Brecon Kavanagh taken off didn’t disrupt Offaly in the slightest and they kicked on again with points from Mitchell and Hoctor, not to mention a majestic score from Ter Guinan on the run, to lead by six, but a goal from Liam Leen at the start of eight minutes of stoppage time ensured a tense and dramatic finale.
Shane Rigney hit the post going for goal at one end, Kieran Hanrahan almost found the net but had his shot blocked by Mark Troy at the other, and it was right at the death when Offaly could finally celebrate as Cormac Egan set up Mitchell for a shot on goal and while Darragh Walsh did brilliantly to deny Mitchell, the ball fell kindly for Egan to whip the sliotar to the net and seal Offaly’s first championship win over Galway at any level since the 1994 senior semi-final.
Scorers for Offaly: S Rigney 1-3, C Mitchell 0-5 (0-4f), J Hoctor 1-2, A Screeney 0-3 (0-2f), C Egan 1-0, C Doyle 0-2, C King 0-2, D Bourke 0-1, T Guinan 0-1, S Bourke 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: R Burke 0-6 (0-4f, 0-2 65s), R Davitt 1-1, L Leen 1-1, D Shaughnessy 0-3, D Davoren 0-3, C Molloy 0-2, O Lohan 0-1.
Offaly: M Troy; P Taaffe, B Miller, J Mahon; L Watkins, S Bourke, B Kavanagh; C Spain, C King; D Bourke, C Mitchell, C Doyle; S Rigney, J Hoctor, A Screeney.
Subs: C Egan for Screeney (24-h/t, temp), C Egan for Screeney (36), T Guinan for Kavanagh (49), D Ravenhill for Hoctor (60+4).
Galway: D Walsh; K Hanrahan, M Walsh, A Nolan; S O’Hanlon, C Trayers, P Burke; G Lee, T Leen; R Killilea, R Burke, D Shaughnessy; R Davitt, G Thomas, C Molloy.
Subs: D Davoren for P Burke (27), L Leen for Shaughnessy (37), O Lohan for Killilea (37), J O’Connor for Nolan (53).
Referee: C Flynn (Westmeath).
(With thanks to Kevin Egan and www.examiner.ie)