U20 Hurlers Progress To Leinster Final
O’Neills.com Leinster U-20 HC semi-final
Kevin Egan reports from Glenisk O’Connor Park (from gaa.ie website)
Offaly will get the chance to win a first Leinster U-20 hurling championship in 23 years next Wednesday night after they outfought and outhurled Dublin in front of a large and lively home crowd tonight at Glenisk O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
After hurling with a strong breeze in their first half, the question on everyone’s lips at the interval was whether or not their 0-12 to 1-4 lead would be adequate. Once Dublin knocked over three points in the first three minutes after the restart, the answer to that question looked like it would be a negative one.
Charlie Mitchell’s goal after 38 minutes will go down as the turning point, but it was Offaly’s incredibly stout and disciplined defensive play that really turned the corner, as they forced Dublin into pressured shots and misplaced passes, suffocating a highly-rated attack that fared very well against good opposition in the group stages of this championship.
Mitchell went on to pick off several wonderful points to help build up a strong Offaly lead, with Dan Ravenhill coming off the bench to chip in with two more, and the away side were a beaten docket by the time Conn Rock got a touch to Senan Crosbie’s centre to knock in their second goal with what turned out to be the last play of the game.
Dublin looked sharp in the opening five minutes and picked off a good score through senior panellist Diarmaid Ó Dúlaing, but with a very strong breeze at their backs and plenty of possession thanks to outstanding defensive plays from players like Sam Bourke, James Mahon and Ter Guinan, Offaly began to create chances.
Colin Spain and Joe Hoctor picked off a brace of points each in the opening half as Offaly built up a four point lead, and then had to rebuild it, following Ollie Gaffney’s touch on a sliced, high shot from Ó Dúlaing.
The last three points of the half, all from Charlie Mitchell frees, put five points between the sides, but some simple, accurate hurling from Dublin saw Gaffney, Jamie Conroy and Ó Dúlaing cancel those out in the opening minutes of the second half.
That was to be as good as it got for the Dubs. Sam Bourke, with his brother Dan dropping back to sweep, took complete control of the half-back line, and it seemed that every ruck and tackle saw an Offaly player emerge from the crowd with the sliotar in his possession.
Cormac Egan, who stepped into the substantial gap left by the absence of Adam Screeney, produced a hard run and shot that was partially blocked, and once Mitchell swept in the loose ball, Offaly had a lead to defend again. They never looked like losing it.
Scorers for Offaly: Charlie Mitchell 1-9 (0-5f, 0-1 65), Joe Hoctor 0-2, Colin Spain 0-2, Dan Bourke 0-2, Dan Ravenhill 0-2 (0-1f), Sam Bourke 0-1, Shane Rigney 0-1.
Scorers for Dublin: Diarmaid Ó Dúlaing 0-5 (0-3f), Ollie Gaffney 1-1, Conn Rock 1-1, James O’Brien 0-1, Neil Clerkin 0-1, Jamie Conroy 0-1, Seán Gallagher 0-1, Neil Hogan 0-1.
Offaly: Mark Troy; Patrick Taaffe, Ben Miller, James Mahon; Luke Watkins, Sam Bourke, Ter Guinan; Colin Spain, Cathal King; Dan Bourke, Cormac Egan, Conor Doyle; Shane Rigney, Joe Hoctor, Charlie Mitchell.
Subs: Dan Ravenhill for Hoctor (half-time), Barry Egan for Guinan (53), Charlie Bracken for Miller (56)
Dublin: Adam O’Connor; Brian Dunne, Brian Moorhouse-Carroll, David Lucey; Conor Dolan, Jack O’Shea, Conal Ó Ríain; James O’Brien, Seán Gallagher; Brendan Kenny, Diarmaid Ó Dúlaing, Neil Clerkin; Ciaran Donovan, Jamie Conroy, Ollie Gaffney.
Subs: Conn Rock for Clerkin (41), Neil Hogan for Conroy (41), Senan Crosbie for O’Brien (43), Andrew Keegan for Dolan (50), Conor Brennan for Kenny (57)
Referee: Eamon Furlong (Wexford).