Leinster MHC - Offaly 4-14 Dublin 1-12

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Leinster MHC - Offaly 4-14 Dublin 1-12

Post by Lone Shark » Sun Apr 17, 2005 7:09 pm

After the horror in Dr. Cullen Park, where a pessimistic observer would have said that our quarter of a century among the higher echelons of the hurling world was officially concluded, it was a joy to watch this next generation of Offaly hurlers play with commitment, flair, and no small level of skill, and in a style that that had the fingerprints of their legendary manager all over it.

Needless to say those that were looking for negatives would point to the way our midfield and half forwards were often physically outdone by their metropolitan opponents, how the lack of height in the full back line could be attributed to the goal conceded, and how at the end of the day this was only Dublin, and a far cry from Kilkenny, who as always loom large on the horizon. But being fair, this was a Dublin side with some great results on the challenge circuit behind them, a Dublin team who were very unlucky not to have secured a victory against Wexford in Parnell Park in their opening game, and above all a Dublin team that were quietly confidant of coming down to Birr and winning. Their team management during the week made no secret of the confidence they had in this team, and Offaly coming into the game were justifiably wary.

This wariness was probably a good thing, because from the off they were focussed and sharp all over the field, and their swift movement of the ball and intelligent running and distribution had the Dubs under a lot of pressure. Not only that, but they capitalised on their superiority well, taking the first four points of the match, the pick of them being a beautiful score from Colm Coughlan from a tight angle at top of the left. Dublin were making some headway through midfield, but their shot selection and execution was letting them down, and with around 12 minutes on the clock, the 0-6 to 0-2 scoreline was a reflection of the more accurate shooting.

At this point Offaly got the first major breakthrough. Stephen Egan won the ball fantastically well, beat two men and drove the ball into the heart of the Dublin defence. Ciarán Flannery took advantage of some uncertain Dublin defending, and under pressure, struck a ground shot to the net and leave Offaly seven in front. This lasted all of two minutes though, before the visitors responded in kind – a long range free dropping in the area was pulled on overhead by Shane Durkin, and while the contact was not clean, the ball took an uneven bounce in the rough of the goalmouth and deceived Devon Beale, who possibly would have been better advised to put his hurl to the ball rather than put his hand down to it.

This goal merely served to refocus Offaly, and a second Derek Molloy point after a great catch and pass by Diarmuid Horan was followed by their second goal. Brian Nolan got credited with the score, but it was mainly down to great work from Colm Coughlan, who hassled and harried the Dublin goalkeeper and corner back as they were attempting to clear, won possession and delivered the ball smartly across the area for Nolan to finish first time into an unguarded goal. Offaly’s good play continued up to the half, though a couple of frees from Kevin O’Reilly kept Dublin in touch, but leading by double scores at half time, 2-10 to 1-5, you felt that Offaly were in a good position to close out.

Life would be no fun if it was that simple. Dublin started the second half in the same vein as Offaly started the first, and crucially, their running game which was not really penetrating in the first half hour began to yield space and frees. O’Reilly’s score tally mounted, and Dublin brought the eight point deficit down to three with a sequence of scores before Offaly mustered a reply. Players such as Peter Callaghan at wing back, Tomás Brady at centre back and John McCaffrey in midfield were really imposing themselves, and began to give the Dublin forwards the kind of supply that you knew they would thrive on. Shane O’Rourke and Ross O’Carroll finished with one point each to their names, but both were very well taken scores after beating their man with speedy running in possession. Stephen Egan and Conor Hernon can both take credit for limiting their direct opponents as they did, and it was at this stage of the game that they stepped up, and with Mark Quinlan at full back always dominant, Dublin never looked like getting the goal that would have really put Offaly under serious pressure.
With the game finely poised at 2-12 to 1-12, it was Offaly who got the goal, and with it broke Dublin’s spirit. With their team pushing forward in search of scores, the Dublin full back line was often left one on one on the Offaly inside line, and this suited Nolan and Coughlan in a big way. Coughlan became the third member of the full forward line to raise a green flag when he picked up a breaking high ball in front of the jumpers competing for it, sidestepped to his left and finished neatly from twenty metres.

With ten minutes remaining, Dublin never added another score, and Offaly put another goal on the board when Brian Nolan got a touch to a loose ball in front of the defender, and was clean through 40m out with no-one but the goalie to beat. The finish was as clinical as you’d expect from the Birr man.

But just as you were thinking that just maybe we might give Kilkenny a good game this year, a moment of madness from man of the match Joe Bergin left a sour aftertaste. After being fouled in possession with two minutes left on the clock, he flicked out his hurl at Shane Durkin and was given a straight red card. This was foolishness of the highest order, as he’s now looking at a ban of between one and three months during peak hurling season. This will have either a considerable or devastating effect on our chances going forward, as he is comfortably the class act of the team, and looked like a man amongst boys throughout the game. One hopes that the referee will look leniently when fleshing out his report.

The sorry Bergin incident aside, there was a lot to be hopeful for in this match. The full back line was tight marking and sharp, Bergin, Watkins and Leonard all had good games around the middle, Bevans was quiet but showed his potential with one majestic point from 60 metres out on the sideline that dropped over the black spot, and Molloy and Horan give a much needed physical dimension to the team, while still looking like good hurlers.

The jewel in the crown in this team by a margin though is the full forward line. Ciaran Flannery is dangerous in front of goals, though a lot of his best work was done when he moved out the pitch – indeed I’d expect him to start in midfield at the expense of Jason Whelehan next day out, or possibly even at centre back in place of Bergin. The two corner forwards were fast, skilled and took their chances well. Colm Coughlan in particular looks to have the makings of just as stylish a hurler of his father, with just as much by way of physique (!). However he never shirks the tackle, and looks to have a very bright future in the game.

On a direct formline, you’d hope that Wexford would be beatable in Wexford Park the next day, and the way would be clear for a shot at Kilkenny in the Leinster final, and if nothing else a good run in the backdoor. Now is not the time to think like that though. Offaly hurling needs a team to beat Kilkenny in the Championship. This could be the team. We live in hope.

Teams:
Offaly: Devon Beale; Conor Hernon, Mark Quinlan, Stephen Egan; Ger Treacy, Joe Bergin (0-4, frees), Brian Watkins (Captain); Brian Leonard, Jason Whelehan; Mark Bevans (0-1), Derek Molloy (0-2), Diarmuid Horan (0-1, free); Brian Nolan (2-2), Ciaran Flannery (1-1), Colm Coughlan (1-3, 1 free).
Subs: Ger Scales for Jason Whelehan, Ray Carroll for Mark Bevans, John Cashin for Ger Treacy, Damien Bevans for Colm Coughlan.

Dublin: Brian O’Neill; Shane Murphy, Eoin Quinn, Eoin Walsh; Peter Callaghan, Tomás Brady, Ronan Drumgoole; Keith Dunne (0-1), John McCaffrey; Kevin O’Reilly (0-7, 0-5 frees), Shane Durkin (1-1), Joseph Boland; Ross O'Carroll (0-1), Declan O'Dwyer (0-1), Shane O'Rourke (0-1).
Subs: Joey Maher for Joseph Boland, Shane Casey for Eoin Quinn.

Referee: R Houlihan (Kildare)

Clubs:

Devon Beale – CRC Gaels
Conor Hernon, Jason Whelehan, Diarmuid Horan, Ciaran Flannery, Ger Scales – St. Rynagh’s
Mark Quinlan, Brian Watkins, Brian Nolan – Birr
Stephen Egan – Tullamore
Ger Treacy – St. Vincent’s
Joe Bergin – Seir Kieran
Brian Leonard – Kilcormac/Killoughey
Mark Bevans, Damien Bevans – Shinrone
Derek Molloy – Shamrocks
Colm Coughlan, Ray Carroll – Kinnitty
John Cashin - Drumcullen

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