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Offaly's Charlie Mitchell blocks a shot from Declan Dalton of Cork. Leah Scholes/INPHO
back with a bang

Connolly hits hat-trick as Cork thrash Offaly

Cork stormed to victory with five goals in Tullamore.

Cork 5-28

Offaly 0-16

Paul Keane reports from Glenisk O’Connor Park, Tullamore

ALAN CONNOLLY RETURNED to the Cork team with a bang, sniping three goals in Tullamore to keep the Rebels in the Allianz NHL title hunt.

The injury plagued Blackrock attacker missed all of last year’s county programme but returned as a substitute against Waterford in Round 3 a fortnight ago and was handed a start this time by boss Pat Ryan.

Connolly didn’t disappoint and blasted 3-1 in all while substitutes Brian Hayes and Darragh Fitzgibbon also netted in the second-half to help secure the whopping 27-point win.

It’s back-to-back victories for Cork following earlier losses to Clare and Kilkenny and means that if they beat Wexford next Saturday, away from home, they will secure a top-three finish in the table and top tier hurling for 2025.

Depending on results elsewhere, they could yet finish in the top two and qualify for the league semi-finals.

Free-takers Declan Dalton and Shane Kingston weighed in with 11 points between them also for the visitors while Robert Downey was terrific at wing-back in a defence that restricted Offaly to just five points from play.

charlie-mitchell-tackles-robert-downey Offaly's Charlie Mitchell tackles Robert Downey of Cork. Leah Scholes / INPHO Leah Scholes / INPHO / INPHO

It was a humiliating defeat for Johnny Kelly’s Offaly who will close out their group campaign with a home tie against Clare in Birr next Saturday.

Cork will be pleased that they pulled off the big win despite changing almost two thirds of their team from the narrow Round 3 defeat of Waterford.

There were eight changes in the official lineup with recalls for goalkeeper Patrick Collins, defenders Niall O’Leary, Eoin Downey and Robert Downey, Brian Roche and Luke Meade at midfield and forwards Connolly and Dalton while Tim O’Mahony was a late change to the scheduled team, replacing captain Ciaran Joyce.

Cork’s half-back line immediately took control and with Robert Downey particularly dominant on the left wing, they had a platform to launch attack after attack.

They finished up with 2-12 in all in the first-half though they had five more wides on top of that and two attempts that dropped short.

Connolly racked up 2-1 by the interval and his first goal, in the 20th minute, left Cork with a 1-7 to 0-3 lead and went a long way towards killing the contest even at that early stage.

O’Mahony fetched well and delivered a long ball into the danger zone for the first goal while Conor Lehane helped set up the second. Full-forward Connolly, who made his seasonal return as a sub against Waterford, had plenty to do after receiving the ball in both instances but battled bravely for the three-pointers.

Dalton’s terrific point from the left wing in the 35th minute made it a clean sweep of scores from play for all six starting forwards.

Offaly, meanwhile, with four changes from the team that lost to Kilkenny in Round 3 – Padraig Cantwell, Dan Bourke, Oisin Kelly and David King all came in – struggled for scores and only managed 0-5 from play in the opening half.

Free-taker Eoghan Cahill was their key man with five of their overall eight points as they tried desperately to feed inside forward men like Adam Screeney and Charlie Mitchell when he came on.

Cork went through the motions in the third quarter, extending their lead and taking the opportunity to bring on Darragh Fitzgibbon for his first taste of league action in 2024.

Fitzgibbon beat his man in a foot race along the left sideline in the 49th minute for Cork’s third point in a row, leaving them 2-18 to 0-10 clear at that stage.

Connolly’s third was the pick of the bunch from the Blackrock man as he cut in along the left endline in the 52nd minute, sidestepped an Offaly defender, and planted the ball beyond Stephen Corcoran who’d come on as goalkeeper for the injured Mark Troy.

The visitors weren’t finished there and added on further goals from substitutes Hayes and Fitzgibbon to take their winning margin to a whopping 27 points by full-time.

Cork scorers: Alan Connolly 3-1; Declan Dalton 0-7 (4f, 2 ’65); Brian Hayes, Darragh Fitzgibbon 1-1; Shane Kingston 0-4 (2f); Robert Downey 0-3; Jack O’Connor, Brian Roche, Conor Lehane, Shane Barrett, Luke Meade 0-2; Seamus Harnedy 0-1.

Offaly scorers: David Nally 0-8 (6f, 1 ’65); Eoghan Cahill 0-5 (4f); Sam Bourke, Dan Ravenhill, Dan Bourke 0-1.

Cork:

1. Patrick Collins (Ballinhassig)

4. Eoin Downey (Glen Rovers), 3. Damian Cahalane (St Finbarr’s), 2. Niall O’Leary (Castlelyons)

5. Ger Millerick (Fr O’Neill’s), 18. Tim O’Mahony (Newtownshandrum), 7. Robert Downey (Glen Rovers)

8. Brian Roche (Bride Rovers), 9. Luke Meade (Newcestown)

10. Declan Dalton (Fr O’Neill’s), 11. Conor Lehane (Midleton), 12. Seamus Harnedy (St Ita’s)

13. Jack O’Connor (Sarsfield), 14. Alan Connolly (Blackrock), 15. Shane Barrett (Blarney)

Subs:

  • 23. Robbie Cotter (Blackrock) for O’Connor (h/t)
  • 26. Darragh Fitzgibbon (Charleville) for Harnedy (45)
  • 24. Shane Kingston (Douglas) for Dalton (55)
  • 25. Brian Hayes (St Finbarr’s) for Connolly (58)
  • 20. Cormac O’Brien (Newtownshandrum) for Robert Downey (68)

Offaly:

1. Mark Troy (Durrow)

18. Padraig Cantwell (Shamrocks), 3. Ben Conneely (St Rynagh’s), 8. Cathal King (Carrig and Riverstown)

6. David King (Coolderry), 5. Jason Sampson (Shinrone – Captain), 4. Sam Bourke (Durrow)

11. Eimhin Kelly (Lusmagh), 13. Eoghan Cahill (Birr)

10. Dan Ravenhill (Durrow), 7. Killian Sampson (Shinrone), 9. David Nally (Belmont)

20. Dan Bourke (Durrow), 14. Oisin Kelly (Belmont), 15. Adam Screeney (Kilcormac/Killoughey)

Subs:

  • 12. Charlie Mitchell (Kilcormac/Killoughey) for Ravenhill (14)
  • 2. Jack Clancy (Belmont) for Cahill (h/t)
  • 16. Stephen Corcoran (Coolderry) for Troy (39-f/t, blood)
  • 19. Luke Watkins (Shinrone) for Screeney (44)
  • 23. Donal Shirley (Tubber) for Cantwell (50)
  • 26. Morgan Watkins (Birr) for Kelly (69)

Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim).

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