A feast of goals for Cats in Faithful slaughter - but a slew of injuries casts shadow
Kilkenny 6-20 Offaly 0-14
Published 04/04/2016 | 02:30
Goals and progression to an intriguing semi-final clash with Clare both came easily for Kilkenny at Nowlan Park but, unfortunately for manager Brian Cody, so too did injuries.
By full-time, Cody was left with a number of fresh concerns - including both Fennelly brothers, Colin and Michael, who suffered hamstring strains.
Full-back Robert Lennon was also substituted with a hamstring complaint while Paul Murphy was taken out of the action in the first half, too.
Victory was never in doubt against an outclassed Offaly side that narrowly avoided a relegation scrap in Division 1B, although Cody could be without some big names for their April 17 semi-final tie against Clare.
The All-Ireland winning manager accepted that it will be 'touch and go' now as to whether those players are available for what is an ironic repeat of last year's relegation play-off.
Even if those players do miss out, Kilkenny will head into the tie high on confidence after a fifth consecutive win that was sewn up after 25 minutes - when they led by 15 points.
"Colin pulled up, he felt his hamstring and the hamstring is always a dodgy one," said Cody. "Two weeks is a short time for a hamstring to recover. Rob Lennon had a hamstring issue as well, so it's going to be touch-and-go.
"If they're not right, if there's even the slightest doubt, they won't play - simple as that.
"Mick Fennelly's hamstring felt tight as well. Again, it's something you don't play through so it's a question now of how they'll recover.
"We just have to wait and see. Obviously, to pick up knocks is not ideal and two weeks is a short enough turnaround until the next day, so we can't guarantee we'll have everybody available. But we just don't know yet."
Cody took the opportunity to rest Hurler of the Year, TJ Reid, and Richie Hogan in front of an almost 5,000-strong crowd. Kevin Kelly took his chance in attack with 1-7, having previously fired 2-1 against Tipperary.
Ex-underage star Liam Blanchfield helped himself to 1-3, while Lester Ryan and John Power were also among the goals in the second-half.
Offaly got going for 10-minute spells either side of half-time but were comfortably beaten overall. Cody admitted the challenge will be much stiffer against Clare.
"It's a terrific game to get," he said of the Clare tie.
"They're after having a really strong run through Division 1B and had a big win over Tipperary, so it's a huge game coming up. They're a team full of confidence, I'd say."
Offaly finished fourth in 1B and the gulf in quality between themselves and the 1A table-toppers was obvious from the start.
The Faithful have their work cut out now to rebuild shattered confidence in time for the qualifier series of games in the Leinster championship. They play Westmeath on May 1 in Mullingar.
"We were really up for this fight," said Offaly manager Eamonn Kelly. "We weren't coming down here to fulfil a fixture.
"Maybe we were too pumped up, and that's something we need to look at.
"We felt we made some wrong decisions and they're the things you have to learn from.
"It's Championship hurling now, and if you make those wrong decisions in the Championship then your year is over very quickly."
Jonjo Farrell got a start in attack and took his chance, as he was involved in Kilkenny's first two goals, scored by Colin Fennelly and Kelly, as they surged 2-10 to 0-1 ahead.
Offaly upped the ante briefly to trail 2-11 to 0-5 at half-time and added four more points early in the second-half.
But that was as good as it got for them, as soon after Fennelly blasted his second and Kilkenny's third goal.
Power hit their fourth after good work by Walter Walsh and Ryan sneaked a long-range shot to the net for their fifth.
Blanchfield wrapped up the goal blitz late on, with a kicked finish from close range.
Scorers - Kilkenny: K Kelly 1-7 (0-7f), C Fennelly 2-1, L Blanchfield 1-3, J Power, L Ryan 1-2 each, M Fennelly 0-2, W Walsh, C Buckley, C O'Shea 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 0-6 (0-6f), K Connolly 0-3, J Mulrooney 0-2, P Murphy, C Egan, J Bergin 0-1 each.
Kilkenny - E Murphy 8, P Murphy 7, R Lennon 7, S Prendergast 7, C O'Shea 7, K Joyce 7, C Buckley 8, M Fennelly 7, L Ryan 8, W Walsh 8, C Fennelly 8, K Kelly 7, L Blanchfield 7, J Farrell 7, J Power 7. Subs : J Holden 8 for Lennon (7), D Cody 7 for M Fennelly (25), J Tyrrell 8 for Murphy (28), M Malone 7 for Cody (44), C Martin 7 for Walsh (62).
Offaly - J Dempsey 5, N Wynne 6, D Shortt 6, C McDonald 6, D Mooney 6, C Doughan 6, P Camon 6, S Ryan 6, K Connolly 6, C Egan 6, S Kinsella 6, P Guinan 5, S Dooley 6, J Bergin 6, J Mulrooney 6. Subs: P Murphy 6 for Guinan (29), C Kiely 6 for Ryan (53), D Kelleher 6 for Shortt (53), J Gorman 6 for Kinsella (64), J Sampson 6 for Doughan (68).
Referee - A Kelly (Galway).