NHL Division 2A: Offaly cruise to a comprehensive victory over Kerry
NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2A
By Daire Walsh
Offaly continued their quest towards promotion from Division 2A of the National Hurling League with a comprehensive 21-point success over Kerry at O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Sunday afternoon.
Rather than relying on a single player for the majority of their scores, Michael Fennelly’s Faithful had a good spread throughout their team. While the dependable Eoghan Cahill finished the contest with an impressive tally of eight points, it was Liam Langton with 1-5 who was Offaly’s top-scorer on the day.
Most impressively, all of the latter’s final tally came from open play. It was a similar case with Brian Duignan, whose 0-5 haul at left half-forward helped to ensure Kerry couldn’t find a way into contention. Substitute Jason Sampson joined Langton in rattling the back of the Kingdom net and was one of 12 scorers overall for the victors.
Once again without the services of ace marksman Shane Conway, Kerry had strong performers in midfielder Shane Nolan and wing-forward Padraig Boyle. Last week’s win over Down does give them some breathing space, but with the Mourne County getting the better of Carlow today, it remains tight at both ends of the table.
Aside from Conway, Kingdom manager Fintan O’Connor had several other injuries to contend with for this game. Nevertheless, they managed to stay in touch during the early exchanges as Offaly took time to work their way into the action.
In fact, Kerry led twice in the opening moments with Colin Walsh and Shane Nolan bagging points either side of Cahill’s first of the day. Offaly subsequently built a head of steam through unanswered scores by Cahill (two) and Langton, but Kerry produced another impressive response.
Boyle registered back-to-back points for the visitors and after Cahill and Shane Kinsella found the range at the opposite end, Boyle added his third of the opening period. This left Kerry a single point adrift (0-6 to 0-5) at the first half water break and seemingly in line for a big challenge.
However, like so many games in the past 12 months, this temporary interval enabled the pre-game favourites - Offaly, in this case - to re-focus. While Kerry did initially restore parity through Michael Leane, the remainder of the half belonged to the Faithful men.
A Langton goal on 23 minutes created some daylight for the first time and Brian Duignan immediately followed with a fine point. Although a Nolan free offered Kerry some relief, Offaly posted a remarkable 1-9 without reply in the space of just 13 minutes.
Cahill (two), Langton (two), Oisin Kelly (two) and Leon Fox all raised white flags, before Jason Sampson was introduced in place of full-forward Adrian Hynes. Within a minute of his introduction, Sampson had added his side’s second goal.
Either side of this three-pointer, Cahill and Duignan contributed points to move Offaly 2-16 to 0-7 in front at the break.
The rout continued on the restart, with Duignan (two), Cahill and Langton moving them all of 19 points clear with 24 minutes of normal time still to play. Jason Diggins and Nolan did post much-needed scores for Kerry, but Langton also found the range in between their efforts.
Boyle and Nolan increased their own personal hauls in the 52nd and 56th minutes and there could be no denying their application and willingness to fight for each scoring opportunity. Offaly are determined to leave their imprint on the 2021 inter-county season, however, and there was no sign of them dropping off in the final-quarter.
Duignan, Langton, John Murphy and Padraic Guinan rattled off points in quick succession to reinforce the home side’s authority. Mikey Boyle and Fionan O’Sullivan added their names to the Kerry scoresheet, but it was Offaly who were to have the final say.
Murphy, Killian Sampson and David Nally fired over off enterprising moves to complete a near-perfect outing for the Faithful.
Next up for Fennelly’s charges is a visit to Carlow and Netwatch Cullen Park next Sunday. For Kerry, it’s a home affair against Meath in Tralee on the same day, a game they will undoubtedly target as a perfect opportunity to bounce back from this disappointment.
Scorers - Offaly: Liam Langton 1-6, Eoghan Cahill 0-8 (4f, 1 ’65’), Brian Duignan 0-5, Jason Sampson 1-0, John Murphy, Oisin Kelly 0-2 each, Padraic Guinan, Killian Sampson, Leon Fox, David Nally, Shane Kinsella 0-1 each. Kerry: Shane Nolan (3f, 1 ’65’), Padraig Boyle 0-4 each, Jason Diggins, Mikey Boyle, Michael Leane, Fionan O’Sullivan, Colin Walsh 0-1 each.
OFFALY: Conor Clancy; Jordan Quinn, Ciaran Burke, David King; Brian Watkins, Ben Conneely, Killian Sampson; Leon Fox, Ross Ravenhill; Shane Kinsella, Oisin Kelly, Brian Duignan; Liam Langton, Adrian Hynes, Eoghan Cahill. Subs: Jason Sampson for A Hynes (34), Padraic Guinan for B Watkins (40), David Nally for L Fox (44), John Murphy for S Kinsella (44), Shane Dooley for E Cahill (56), Aidan Treacy for B Conneely (56), Eimhin Kelly for O Kelly (67).
KERRY: John B O’Halloran; John Buckley, Evan Murphy, Niall O’Mahony; Jason Diggins, Barry O’Mahony, Fionan Mackessy; Shane Nolan, Paudie O’Connor; Padraig Boyle, Daniel Collins, Michael Leane; Colin Walsh, Mikey Boyle, Maurice O’Connor. Subs: Eric Leen for J Buckley (38), Fionan O’Sullivan for M Leane (44), Donal Hunt for C Walsh (44), Daniel Casey for M O'Connor (50), Billy Lyons for J Diggins (55), Colman Savage for N O Mahony (67).
Referee: Nathan Wall (Cork).