Colin Fennelly leads charge as Kilkenny show Offaly no mercy
The Sky Age arrived in Nowlan Park last night, a new audience to observe a game that has enthralled novice witnesses and distinguished guests down the years. Kilkenny, with nine championships out of the last 14, are not the kind to start hamming it up for the cameras and if there was a time when Offaly would have been only too glad to, that day has long passed.
Kilkenny 5-32 Offaly 1-18
Offaly ended up in a Division 1B relegation play-off against Kerry, while Kilkenny won the national league but championship survives on hope. Those loyal to the Faithful County were hoping their side could – like last year – get under Kilkenny's skin and make life uncomfortable for them. They opened reasonably well, but once Kilkenny found their rhythm Offaly were simply overpowered and outclassed.
Offaly's last championship win over Kilkenny was in 1998 before the Brian Cody era began. A lifetime in hurling terms. This never looked remotely like an upset. Offaly played a sweeper system they had used in the league, but abandoned it after 20 minutes when trailing 0-4 to 1-12. Kevin Connolly had barely gone back up the field when Kilkenny had gained an even more suffocating grip with a second goal.
The move that led to Colin Fennelly's finish summed up the confidence coursing through Kilkenny's play. Richie Hogan played a lovely ball over his shoulder to Michael Fennelly and when his shot was stopped by James Dempsey, Fennelly's brother Colin poked home the rebound.
Fennelly was in serious form and had 1-5 from play by the end of the first half, with Kilkenny coasting 2-22 to 0-6, and Offaly perhaps fearing a repeat of the 31-point annihilation in 2005. Brian Whelahan, part of the last Offaly team to beat Kilkenny in the summer, watched on helplessly. He started four debutantes. They suffered a harrowing introduction to hurling at this level.
Brian Carroll looked capable of causing Kilkenny problems and hit two fine scores early on and his influence led to the substitution of his marker, Brian Kennedy. He finished with 1-10 but had little assistance. With Carroll playing alongside Shane Dooley, that left Paul Murphy free and Offaly's delivery of the ball needed to keep him out of the game. Too often it did not and one of Kilkenny's first half scores was his.
Last year in Tullamore, where they lost by five points, Offaly kept their challenge afloat with goals. They had hardly a sniff here. Having played into the breeze only one chance, a half-chance, fell to Conor Mahon and he couldn't get enough conviction on the ground stroke.
Eoin Larkin, playing a little deeper than his selected position, had the other first half goal and soon after half-time Mark Kelly was the last of the forwards to get on the scoresheet when he banged home a goal. Dempsey pulled off a wonderful save only moments before to deny TJ Reid. He made a few more before the night was through to save his team from an even more demoralising defeat.
Long before the end Tommy Walsh, to wing-forward, came in and the crowd was willing him to score. They needed something to keep them entertained.
The match had long lost that claim on their attention. But they weren't done. Kelly scored a second goal and Larkin had the last near the end.
Scorers: Kilkenny: E Larkin 2-4, C Fennelly 1-6, TJ Reid 0-6 (2fs), M Kelly 2-0, W Walsh 0-4, M Fennelly, R Hogan, A Fogarty 0-3 each, L Ryan 0-2, P Murphy 0-1. Offaly: B Carroll 1-10 (6fs), S Ryan, S Dooley, D Currams, C Parlon, J Bergin, R Hanniffy, S Quirke, C Mahon 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, B Kennedy; P Walsh, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; L Ryan, R Hogan; W Walsh, M Fennelly, TJ Reid; C Fennelly, M Kelly, E Larkin. Subs: K Joyce for Kennedy (27), T Walsh for C Fennelly, B Hogan for P Walsh (both 49), A Fogarty for Reid (inj 56), JJ Farrell for M Fennelly (61).
Offaly: J Dempsey; N Wynne, R Hanniffy, J Rigney; C Parlon, D Morkan, B Harding; P Geraghty, S Ryan; J Bergin, D Currams, C Mahon; K Connolly, S Dooley, B Carroll. Subs: C McDonald for Rigney (26), S Quirke for Connolly (h-t), T Geraghty for P Geraghty (h-t), G Healion for Harding (52), C Slevin for Bergin (61).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).
Sunday Indo Sport