EirGrid U20 SF: Brilliant Offaly reach decider
EirGrid All Ireland U20 Semi-Final
OFFALY 3-10 CORK 0-14
By John Fallon at MW Hire O’Moore Park
Offaly football got another big boost as they backed up their Leinster final win over Dublin by booking a place in the All-Ireland U-20 final against either Down or Roscommon.
Offaly were full value for their thrilling victory in front of 1,400 in Portlaoise, although they had to withstand a spirited rally from a Cork side who trailed by nine points early in the second-half before whittling it down to two.
But Offaly, guilty of squandering several goal chances, wrapped it up in the dying moments when Cormac Egan set up man of the match Jack Bryant for his second goal of a highlight entertaining encounter.
Bryant finished with a haul of 2-4 as Offaly advanced to their first final in the U-21/20 grade since they won their only title in 1988.
Offaly, aided by the slight breeze, deservedly led by 1-7 to 0-3 at the interval and should have been much further ahead but they failed to convert a couple of good chances.
The sides were level twice in the opening 13 minutes but then Offaly pulled away thanks to their flowing football.
Offaly were full of running from deep and full-back Tom Hyland blazed wide with a goal chance after 19 minutes, while Bryant did likewise moments later after he and Egan had dispossessed Cork corner-back Colm O’Donovan.
The Cork defence struggled to contain Offaly and a sin-binning of wing-back Adam Walsh-Murphy for pulling down Cathal Flynn as he headed for goal.
Offaly outscored Cork by 1-4 to 0-1 while they had the extra man with Byrant shooting home a superb goal into the top right corner four minutes from the break after landing two points just prior to that and they went in leading by seven.
Kellaghan and Bryant extended Offaly’s lead with points inside four minutes of the restart but then Cork came storming back and hit the next five points from David Buckley (two), Colin Walsh, Brian Hayes and Ciarán O’Sullivan to cut the gap to 1-9 to 0-8 after 44 minutes.
Offaly responded with Bryant setting up Cathal Flynn and the wing-forward shot low to the net.
Cork hit back and landed the next three points before Keith O’Neill responded for Offaly to leave it 2-10 to 0-11 with seven minutes remaining.
Cork piled forward and with the Offaly defence forced to foul, David Buckley tapped over three frees to reduce the margin to two points going into the closing stages.
But the comeback when Offaly broke and Egan soloed through and Bryant supplied the finish, rounding goalkeeper Gavin Creedon before shooting home.
Scorers for Offaly: Jack Bryant 2-4 (0-2f), Cathal Flynn 1-0, Aaron Kellaghan 0-2 (0-1mark), Lee Pearson 0-1, Morgan Tynan 0-1 (f), Cormac Egan 0-1, Keith O’Neill 0-1.
Scorers for Cork: David Buckley 0-5, (0-4f, 0-1mark), Ciarán O’Sullivan 0-4 (1 ’45), Colin Walsh 0-2, Michael O’Neill 0-1 (f), Dara Dorgan 0-1 (f), Brian Hayes 0-1 (’45).
OFFALY: Sean O’Toole; Aaron Brazil, Tom Hyland, Lee Pearson; Rory Egan, John Furlong, Fionn Dempsey; Ed Cullen, Morgan Tynan; Cathal Flynn, Oisin Keenan Martin, Cathal Donoghue; Cormac Egan, Jack Bryant, Aaron Kellaghan.
Substitutes: Keith O’Neill for Kellaghan (8-9 blood), O’Neill for Tynan (46), Cormac Delaney for Kellaghan (52).
CORK: Gavin Creedon; Colm O’Donovan, Diarmaid Phelan, Conor McGoldrick; Adam Walsh-Murphy, Tommy Walsh, Darragh Cashman; Brian Hayes, Niall Hartnett; David Buckley, Jack Cahalane, Ciarán O’Sullivan; Dara Dorgan, Colin Walsh, Michael O’Neill.
Substitutes: Seán McDonnell for Dorgan (29), Seán O’Sullivan for O’Neill (35), Darragh Holland for Walsh-Murphy (40), Eoghan Nash for Harnett (47), Neil Lordan for Cashman (47-49), Jack Kelleher for C Walsh (54).
Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo).