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Another chapter imminent in the Offaly and Tipperary story

Offaly U20 goalkeeper Liam Hoare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Offaly U20 goalkeeper Liam Hoare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

By Kevin Egan

Even by the high bar set by local GAA rivalries all over Ireland, there are pockets around the Offaly-Tipperary border where the relationship between the two counties is very complex.

Ballyskenach started life in Tipperary before moving to Offaly, hurlers from Shinrone were known to take part in Tipp championships with Knockshegowna, while both Lorrha and Coolderry each looked to cross the border in 1925, though neither succeeded.

Perhaps the two hottest spots on the border however are Moneygall, where the village is in Offaly, but the club hurls in Tipperary, and Carrig & Riverstown, where the opposite applies.

In both clubs, there is a long history of club members having different county allegiances – but with Carrig and Riverstown well-represented on the Offaly U-20 panel in advance of this Saturday’s final, that seems to be changing.

“It’s totally different, everyone in the club is supporting me, Cathal (King), Caelum (Larkin) and Peter (King),” says Carrig and Offaly goalkeeper Liam Hoare.

“There’s not one bit of lads saying we hope Tipp are going to win this. They are all with us and they want to do it for us and we want to give it back to the club for all they’ve given to us.

“I’d never really had any issues with the Tipp rivalry. Everyone has supported me all the way up. It’s a thing of the past as such now."

Hoare, who was the goalkeeper in Nowlan Park for the minor final two years ago and has played a crucial role this year, saving penalties against both Kilkenny and Dublin, had a difficult year in the interim.

The issue of support is one that was hugely important to him as he battled with a cancer diagnosis throughout 2023, just about making it back for his club’s successful intermediate championship campaign and their subsequent run to a Leinster final.

“I was in hospital over the New Year, all of the lads at home were out and stuff and I was stuck in the hospital. But the likes of Leo and the players, they kept me involved, made sure I knew I was still part of the team. Even last year, helping out Mark Troy with a bit of the goalie training, simple stuff like that and a normal routine, it was super."

“I never looked at it as a bad thing, if you stay positive, it’s half the battle. Once you’re in the right state of mind you’ll be happy out. I’d come training with the lads and stuff. Then I remember coming on against Edenderry in Birr and everyone in Carrig came up and gave me a round of applause. It’s a great community spirit in the GAA, it’s great to see”.

The connection with the crowd has also been a huge feature of this team, throughout their minor and U-20 campaigns in the past three years. Hoare jests that over-enthusiasm might have been a problem when it came to premature pitch invasions in Portlaoise in the Leinster final, but that as a team, they are delighted to surf the wave of Offaly enthusiasm.

“Look what happened in Nowlan Park two years ago, and Dublin did have another free in, so if they got another goal it would have been disastrous. But they got their pitch invasion at the end, so they were happy.

“The crowd is super. They’re like a 16th man. Without them, I’m not even sure would we be playing next Saturday. Now we need to deliver for them. We need an All-Ireland."

Now there’s something that everyone in Carrig & Riverstown can agree with. Or most of them, at least.