Bergin's brace fires Faithful back into Leinster mix
Offaly 3-19 Kerry 0-20
Three weeks after suffering a 14-point drubbing at the hands of Westmeath, Offaly are back and exactly where they want to be. Yesterday's eight-point win over Kerry in the last of the Round Robin series games has set up a home Leinster SHC quarter-final with Laois in two weeks' time.
Goals were crucial for the Faithful County with Shane Dooley finding the net just before half-time and Joe Bergin firing in the first of his two goals with 20 minutes to go and at a crucial period in the game.
Bergin's second came in injury time as Eamonn Kelly's charges overturned the result between the sides in the league back in March.
"It was always going to be difficult, Kerry are a good side, even though they were missing a few players today," explained the Offaly bainisteoir. "We said we'd focus on our own performance and I'd say we probably got a seven out of ten. We've lots to work on but I think it is going in the right direction, we put up a good score today. We're delighted to be in a quarter-final, back here in Tullamore again in a couple of weeks' time and lads won't need any motivation for that."
Kerry started the game well and looked sharp in taking a 0-4 to 0-1 lead inside six minutes. The momentum swung constantly in that opening half but six points in succession between the 13th and 22nd minute, five of which from the stick of Dooley, turned a 0-5 to 0-2 deficit into an 0-8 to 0-5 lead for the Offaly men.
Kelly was delighted with his charges' reaction to falling behind. "Same thing happened the last day, we were 0-5 to 0-1 down against Carlow and we were focused on trying to get a good start but it just didn't happen for us. There's a lot of teams that would crumble with that but the boys here haven't. To be fair we have 28 lads that put in a huge effort and they backed themselves that they'd stick to their task and they did."
Shane Nolan and Dooley were accurate from frees but it was the Kerry men who began to pull away before the break with long-range scores from John Griffin and Daniel Collins putting them 0-11 to 0-9 ahead with 35 minutes on the clock.
There was, however, a twist before the break. Bergin fielded a high ball, laid off to Shane Kinsella and after the Kinnitty man opted to fire across the goal instead of shoot, Shane Dooley was on hand to scoop to the net and land a sucker punch right on the Kerry chin as Offaly went in leading 1-9 to 0-11 at half-time.
Kerry came out and fired the opening three points in the second half but as the sun broke out for a period, so too did the Offaly attack as they hammered home 1-4 in the space of six minutes with Joe Bergin getting a flick on a long, high delivery from Shane Dooley to find the net on 50 minutes.
Offaly now led 2-13 to 0-14 as the game entered something of a scoring lull. The closing 10 minutes saw Kerry get it back to three points but Offaly powered on again and points from substitutes Podge Guinan, Kevin Connolly and Liam Langton coupled with a well-worked second goal for Bergin put another coat of gloss on the Offaly victory.
Kerry selector and former Limerick stalwart Mark Foley had no complaints over the result.
"It was one of those days. We hit the crossbar and the ball comes out and Offaly hit the post from a line ball and it goes over the bar but we have no complaints at all and I thought Offaly were the better team on the day. They took their chances and we didn't take ours and that's the bottom line."
Scorers - Offaly: S Dooley 1-10 (8f, 1 '65, 1 s/l), J Bergin 2-2, K Connolly 0-2, S Kinsella, J Mulrooney, C Kiely, P Guinan & L Langton 0-1 each. Kerry: S Nolan 0-8 (6f), B Barrett & J Egan 0-3 each, D Collins & J Griffin 0-2 each, J Diggins & T Casey 0-1 each.
OFFALY - J Dempsey 7; C McDonald 7, D Shortt 7, P Rigney 8; D King 7, S Gardiner 7, D Mooney 7; S Ryan 8, P Camon 6; C Kiely 7, S Kinsella 6, P Murphy 6; S Dooley 8, J Mulrooney 7, J Bergin 8. Subs: K Connolly 7 for Camon (35), B Conneely 7 for Mooney (55), P Guinan 6 for Kinsella (58), L Langton for Murphy (66), S Cleary for Kiely (66).
KERRY - A McCabe 6; B Murphy 6, P Kelly 7, K Carmody 6; J Diggins 7, D Dineen 6, T Murnane 6; D Collins 7, J Griffin 8; B Barrett 8, P Lucid 6, S Nolan 7; J Conway 6, J Egan 7, J Goulding 6. Subs: M O'Leary 6 for Lucid (29), D Fitzell 6 for Murphy (52), B O'Leary 6 for Conway (55), T Casey 7 for Collins (60).
Ref - P O'Dywer (Carlow)