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Kilkenny see off spirited Offaly with two late scores to book hurling league semi-final

Late scores from TJ Reid and Walter Walsh saw the Cats past the hosts.

Kilkenny 0-24
Offaly 1-19

Kevin O’Brien reports from Bord na Mona O’Connor Park, Tullamore

KILKENNY HEAD FOR the Division 1 hurling league semi-final, but only after a stern test by a courageous Offaly side who pushed them all the way today.

Tom Spain and Pat Camon with Richie Leahy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The teams were deadlocked on 0-22 to 1-19 heading into stoppage-time when a TJ Reid free and a booming Walter Walsh effort were enough to see the Cats over the line.

The Cats, who were without veterans Paul Murphy, Colin Fogarty, Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan once again, will play the winners of Galway-Wexford in the last four.

Reid was Kilkenny’s best player and fired over 12 points while Walsh scored 0-5 from play and was an effective ball-winner up front.

This was Offaly’s best performance since their opening day win over Dublin in Croke Park. The manner of their performance will give Kevin Martin’s men plenty of confidence as they prepare for the round-robin phase of the Leinster championship.

Offaly were searching for their first win over Brian Cody’s side in league or championship since 1998 and this was about as close as they’ve come to beating the Cats in the last 20 years.

Kilkenny arrived into this on the back of a Division 1A league campaign where they pulled off three wins on the bounce to finish in second place, while Offaly defeated Dublin and Laois in 1B to make the quarter-finals in this much-maligned structure.

Both teams started as per the programme and lined out as a conventional 1-15. Offaly did withdraw Dan Currams from the corner to the half-forward line, with Colin Egan effectively a third midfielder.

Offaly had the more experienced team, particularly in the forward line where Conor Mahon, Joe Bergin, Egan, Shane Dooley and Currams are all seasoned campaigners.

Indeed, Offaly’s entire front six were on the scoresheet in the opening half with a reasonable breeze at their backs.

Walter Walsh argues with Paul O'Dwyer after a goal was disallowed Walter Walsh argues with referee Paud O'Dwyer after a goal was disallowed. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was almost 19 minutes before Offaly got their first free by referee Paud O’Dwyer – by that stage the Cats had been awarded eight. Reid posted three early placed balls as Kilkenny led by 0-7 to 0-4 midway through the first-half, but the Faithful finished it by far the stronger.

Mahon was pushed into full-forward and, after a scramble on the edge of the square, he managed to turn the ball past Darren Brennan to give the hosts a 1-10 to 0-10 half-time lead.

The Cats reeled off six of the first seven scores after the restart, with Walter Walsh causing problems at full-forward.

Offaly struggled to generate anywhere near the same offensive threat in the third quarter against the wind, but Dooley hit three points and Mahon fired over an inspirational score to leave the home side one behind with 10 minutes left.

That set-up a rip-roaring finale as David King and Bergin traded scores with Reid and Walsh. Kilkenny were two in front when Dooley landed an incredible score from the corner and then pointed a free after Mahon was fouled.

Reid and Walsh had the final say with a score apiece to seal their progression.

Ben Conneely and Ger Aylward Offaly's Ben Conneely and Ger Aylward of Kilkenny. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-12 (0-9f), Walter Walsh 0-5, John Donnelly 0-2, Liam Blanchfield 0-2, James Maher 0-2, Ger Aylward 0-1.

Scorers for Offaly: Shane Dooley 0-8 (0-5f), Conor Mahon 1-2, Shane Kinsella 0-2, Colin Egan 0-2, Joe Bergin 0-2, Cillian Kiely 0-1, Dan Currams 0-1, David King 0-1.

Kilkenny

1. Darren Brennan (St Lachtain’s)

2. Joey Holden (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
3. Pádraig Walsh (Tullaroan)
4. Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)

5. Conor Delaney (Erin’s Own)
6. Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro)
7. Conor Browne (James Stephens)

8. Richie Leahy (Rower-Inistioge)
9. Ollie Walsh (Dicksboro)

10. Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge)
11. TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
12. James Maher (St Lachtain’s)

13. Ger Aylward (Glenmore)
14. Walter Walsh (Tullogher Rosbercon)
15. Richie Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)

Subs

21. Luke Scanlon (James Stephens) for Aylward (41)
22. John Donnelly (Thomastown) for Walsh (41)
19. Lester Ryan (Clara) for Leahy (61)
16. Enda Morrissey (Bennettsbridge) for Browne (65)
23. Alan Murphy (Glenmore) for Richie Reid (65)

Offaly

1. Eoghan Cahill (Birr)

2. Tom Spain (Brosna Gaels)
3. Sean Gardiner (Lusmagh)
4. Ben Conneely (St Rynagh’s)

5. David O’Toole-Greene (Shamrocks)
6. Dermot Shortt (St Rynagh’s)
7. Pat Camon (St Rynagh’s)

8. Shane Kinsella (Kinnitty)
9. David King (Coolderry)

10. Conor Mahon (Kilcormac/Killoughey)
11. Cillian Kiely (Kilcormac/Killoughey)
12. Colin Egan (Belmont)

13. Shane Dooley (Tullamore)
14. Joe Bergin (Seir Kieran)
15. Dan Currams (Kilcormac/Killoughey)

Subs

25. Paddy Rigney (Kinnitty) for Gardiner (47)
20. Oisin Kelly (Belmont) for Kiely (57)
23. Damien Egan (Belmont) for Kinsella (57)
17. Tommy Geraghty (Kilcormac/Killoughey) for Egan (67)
22. Sean Ryan (Birr) for Rigney (72)

Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow)

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Kevin O'Brien

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