It was knockout time for Kilkenny’s minor hurlers as the Cats headed to Faithful Fields for an early throw-in against hosts Offaly.
Georoid Maher got a ’65 to register the first score of the game. Offaly were looking very fluid, playing some very quick ball which allowed Ajay Clearly to double the lead just moments later with the whole forward line looking very dangerous. A difficult free was put over by Conor Doyle to get Kilkenny off the mark. Each side traded scores with Maher putting one over from a free before James Stephens man Ed McDermott grabbed his first of the game. McDermott then created Kilkennys first goal chance, charging from 40 yards, finding Doyle who forced the Offaly ‘keeper into a save, before McDermott cracked the crossbar, despite play being called back for a free. Offaly were keen to play the quick pass to put The Cats on the backfoot, utilizing some lovely over shoulder passing, resulting in Liam O’Riordan doubling the lead.
Kilkenny’s danger man was proving to be Ed McDermott, who made it a one point game. With both O’Riordan and McDermott trading scores for their respective sides in the next exchange. Kilkenny then took the lead with a goal, a direct ball into McDermott who took a shot that dropped short before Conor Doyle kicked the ball into the net. Liam O’Riordan once again forced the white flag, but Kilkenny were quick to pounce in possession as Ed McDermott picked up a long ball from Brian Moore and The Cats had it in the back of the net again. The game went into a bit of a lull after the quickfire goals, no doubt the blistering pace affecting the legs as we approached half-time with just three points scored in the final ten minutes, two for Kilkenny and one for Offaly.
Half time: Offaly 0-08 Kilkenny 2-05
Liam O’Riordan took first blood in the second half, with Ajay Clearly then helping separate the sides by a single point. Mikey Stynes stopped the ascendency with a score from play and one from a free, with a Mark Mulrooney score for Offaly sandwiched in between.
The Faithful County had dropped back Cillian Burke to sit on Ed McDermott, with good reason. The team level on wide’s with 8 apiece before Mikey Stynes from 90 yards and Conor Doyle jumping on a bad puck out hit the next two shots on either side of the sticks, with the misses mounting up. Ed McDermott stopped the wides after picking up the ball from a Mikey Stynes pass to volley the ball over the bar. Ed Laughoff was up next to hit his first score of the game after a Bill McDermott shot dropped short, immediately after Offaly sub Dylan Hollywood grabbed his first of the day.
Mulrooney and O’Riordan ran riot on the Kilkenny defence with a well work combination resulting in a beautiful point. Every time Offaly look to be gaining an advantage, the are stamped out this time by Sean Bergin who extended Niall Bergins side lead . The crossbar was struck once again, luckily Bill McDermott watched on as the ball bounced over the bar to make sure five of the Kilkenny forwards got their name on the scoresheet. Greg Kelly then had Kilkenny’s next chance at goal, with Ed McDermott standing inside calling for the pass, however Offaly fullback Richard Bracken backed off Kelly, which brought some indecisiveness similar to the Kilkenny seniors against Westmeath and the play fizzled out.
Next up David Barcoe , close to 90 yards out, hit a monster score to make the margin between the two teams 5 points. Mikey Stynes made it the deficit 6 as the game looked to possibly slip away from Offaly with eight minutes left. Approaching full time each side traded scores, with Offaly not being able to get within touching distance before the clock ran out.
Full time: Offaly 0-14 Kilkenny 2-15