Kerry relegate Offaly to Christy Ring Cup
Joe McDonagh Cup Round 5
KERRY 1-18 OFFALY 1-16
By Paul Brennan at Austin Stack Park, Tralee
For the first time in their history the Offaly hurling team won't be a contender for the All-Ireland SHC title next year after being relegated to the Christy Ring Cup for 2020 after a gallant Kerry team held out for an anxious but deserved two-point win to preserve their own Joe McDonagh Cup status in Tralee this afternoon.
How deep this defeat cuts to the core of Offaly hurling or what recriminations might follow is for another day, but it marks a low-water mark for the Faithful county with a long winter of introspection to follow.
A goal on the cusp of half time set Kerry up for a 1-7 to 0-6 lead at the interval despite Offaly playing with a stiff wind, but the Faithful's cause wasn't helped when they had Peter Geraghty sent off in the seventh minute and then had a penalty saved four minutes later.
Shane Dooley's goal four minutes after the restart hauled Offaly right back into contention and from there to the end it was a battle of wills as much as anything with both teams guilty of several poor missed scoring chances. A draw would have done Kerry but with Offaly unable to engineer that second crucial goal they so badly needed Kerry finished their campaign that is as valuable to them as it is crippling for Offaly hurling.
Playing with a stiff breeze Offaly raced into a four-point lead inside six minutes but in the seventh minute Geraghty was sent off on the instruction of a linesman who obviously identified the Offaly wing forward as the reason why Kerry defender Daniel Collins was on the ground clutching himself.
It probably shouldn't have, but the loss of Geraghty seemed to skew Offaly's structure. Worse was to come when Dooley had his well struck 13th minute penalty pushed away by John B O'Halloran after Kevin Connolly was caught high as he drove at the Kerry goal.
That miss really torpedoed Offaly's confidence - or more to the point it gave Kerry a lifeline they hardly deserved after a poor opening 10 minutes - but the home side really got to grips with the game thereafter.
Shane Conway had pointed Kerry's first score in the ninth minute and another two converted frees in the 16th and 17th minutes hauled Kerry right back into contention. Sean Cleary landed Offaly's fifth - their first score in 14 minutes - but points from Jack Goulding and Patrick Kelly had the teams level, 0-5 each, after 25 minutes and then Conway's 28th minute free gave Kerry the lead for the first time.
Conway and Dooley traded frees in the closing minutes but then Kerry struck for a crucial score with Conway playing in Padraig Boyle who lashed the ball past Eoghan Cahill to give Kerry that four-point interval lead.
After Cleary cut the gap to three on the restart Kerry could and should have distanced themselves further when Jordan Conway went one on one with Cahill who saved smartly from the Kerry man's shot, and Cahill had to react again to Padraig Boyle's shot out before Colum Harty tidied up with a Kerry point.
The Offaly goal arrived when Bryan Murphy failed to clear and Dooley pounced to strike, but the Faithful lacked real conviction and menace and composure and struck far too many wides as Kerry kept a slender lead with Conway converting six frees in the second half to help Kerry to a historic win.
It's a result for which Kerry should get huge credit but it's Offaly's relegation to what it effectively hurling's third tier that is the main takeaway from a match that while low of real quality ticked all the boxes of tension, excitement and, in the end, some sympathy for Offaly.
Scorers for Kerry: S Conway 0-11 (all frees), P Boyle 1-1, J Conway 0-2, C Harty 0-2, J Goulding 0-1, P Kelly 0-1
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 1-6 (0-6f), S Cleary 0-4, E Cahill 0-2 (2f), C Kiely 0-1, K Connolly 0-1, J Bergin 0-1, J Gorman 0-1
KERRY: John B O'Halloran, James O'Connor, Bryan Murphy, Sean Weir, Dan Goggin, Michael Boyle, Daniel Collins, John Buckley, Tomas O'Connor, Michael O'Leary, Shane Conway, Patrick Kelly, Padraig Boyle, Jordan Conway, Jack Goulding. Subs: Colum Harty for D Goggin (ht), Michael Slattery for J Goulding (70+2)
OFFALY: Eoghan Cahill, Niall Houlihan, Ben Connely, Mark Egan, Damien Egan, Cillian Kiely, Eoin Parlon, Shane Kinsella, Colm Gath, Sean Cleary, Dermot Gath, Peter Geraghty, Kevin Connolly, Oisin Kelly, Shane Dooley. Subs: Joe Bergin for D Gath (24), David Nally for C Gath (ht), Tom Spain for D Egan (43), James Gorman for S Kinsella (48), Sean Dolan for K Connolly (57).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)