Leinster U-21 HC: Galway power past Offaly
Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-21 Hurling Championship
GALWAY 1-20 OFFALY 0-8
Kevin Egan reports from Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore
History was made in Bord na Móna O’Connor park tonight as Galway won their first ever match in the Leinster U-21 hurling championship, but there was little else memorable about a contest that never got out of second gear, with Offaly woefully off the pace against a Galway side that will now play Kilkenny in the provincial semi-final next Wednesday.
There were some signs of life from the Faithful County early on as they created a similar amount of chances to the Tribesmen in the opening quarter, but inaccuracy cost them as Ben Conneely, Brian Duignan and Liam Langton were all guilty of spurning excellent opportunities for scores.
Galway were far more efficient, with Seán Blehane, Seán Loftus and Cianan Fahy all on target from reasonable distances out, albeit assisted by a strong breeze.
In certain sectors of the field, the sides were evenly matched. Neither midfield pairing was dominant, Ben Conneely broke even with Galway senior star Brian Concannon, and the Offaly full back line didn’t concede a point from play until the final ten minutes.
However the two half lines were a different story entirely. Galway were strong under their own puckout and utterly dominant under that of Offaly, and that ensured a steady flow of possession towards their forward line, which gradually began to tell on the scoreboard.
Brian Concannon and Blehane (twice) added points to make it 0-11 to 0-4 at half time, though with wind advantage to come, Offaly weren’t yet at the point where they could be completely written out of contention.
Fast forward five minutes into the second half, and it was clear that the weather wasn’t going to prevent the second half playing out along very similar lines to the first.
Evan Niland continued to be incredibly accurate from placed balls, Seán Loftus added another superb strike from midfield while Offaly still found it impossible to make inroads into the Galway back division. It wasn’t until the 54th minute that Cathal O’Brien fired over their second point from play, and it was telling that five of their starting six forwards didn’t finish the game.
Four were withdrawn by manager Aidan Hanrahan, while Oisín Kelly received his second straight red card in the space of three weeks when he pulled up for comments made to referee David Hughes after 48 minutes.
Offaly goalkeeper and captain Eoghan Cahill had been his team’s best player with a couple of superb saves, but there was nothing he could do when Seán Loftus blasted in a late goal from a tight angle, wrapping up a comfortable win for the Tribesmen.
Scorers for Galway: Evan Niland 0-9 (0-8 frees), Sean Loftus 1-2, Cianan Fahy 0-4 (0-1 free), Seán Blehane 0-3, Brian Concannon & Jack Canning 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Brian Duignan 0-5 (0-4 frees, 0-1 ’65), Wayne Mooney, Cathal O’Brien & Eoin Woods 0-1 each.
GALWAY: Eanna Murphy; Shane Bannon, Fintan Burke, Ian O’Shea; Caelom Mulry, Mark Hughes, Sean Loftus; Tomás Monaghan, Jack Grealish; Seán Blehane, Brian Concannon, Cianan Fahy; Ronan Murphy, Evan Niland, Kevin Cooney. Subs: Cian Salmon for Murphy (45), Jack Canning for Cooney (45), Andrew Greaney for O’Shea (52), Conor Caulfield for Mulry (52), Liam Forde for Blehane (56).
OFFALY: Eoghan Cahill; Dylan Watkins, Michael Gilligan, Cathal O’Meara; Ross Connaughton, Ben Conneely, Cathal O’Brien; Paddy Delaney, Joe Keenaghan; Wayne Mooney, Oisín Kelly, Liam Langton; Brian Duignan, David Buckley, Conor Langton. Subs: Joe Maher for Connaughton (HT), Ciarán Cleary for Mooney (45), Eoghan Callaghan for C Langton (45), Eimhin Kelly for L Langton (46), Eoin Woods for Duignan (52).
*Referee: *David Hughes (Carlow)