independent

Friday 18 April 2014

'Disgusted' Pat Joe lashes Offaly over snub

BIRR 2-5; YOUNG IRELANDS 1-2 HIGH winds, hard words and a great wash of ungovernable energy in Portlaoise as All-Ireland kings, Birr, maintained their unblemished record in Leinster club finals with their sixth victory in 12 years.

It was manly, sometimes worse than that in O'Moore Park. Dickie Murphy, admittedly, had his peace envoy hat on, booking just three players when he could have quadrupled the figure (even varied the colour) without fear of recrimination.

To be fair, the deplorable conditions treacherous surface, a convulsing gale, hurlies slipping in the hand meant that Murphy's conciliatory ways could be readily understood.

Even on a day of Apocalyptic sounds and colours, more than 7,500 paid in to witness a contest that Young Irelands just never quite got to the pitch of.

Birr imposed such a strident will on the exchanges that Gowran's star turns, Charlie Carter and DJ Carey, found themselves largely isolated in the maelstrom.

DJ started both halves at full-forward but had to wander outfield for flimsy scraps.

He did illuminate the day with a glorious 17th minute slalom down the right-wing, his shot sparking a smart save from Brian Mullins and a brief epidemic of windmill swings in the Birr 'square.'

But, otherwise, DJ was quiet, helped neither by the service, the mud nor Joe Errity's exceptional reading of business from full-back.

Birr's victory extends their record of never having lost to Kilkenny opposition in Championship and team-boss, Pat Joe Whelahan, was not slow to remind his own county board of the statistic.

Bizarrely overlooked yet again for the Offaly manager's job, a clearly emotional Whelahan gave vent to his fury.

"I'm disgusted with the county board," he said. "What they've done this week is a disgrace. Look at our performance out there today. It's not that I wanted the job.

"But, if they wanted to keep Offaly hurling alive, they should have appointed me. What's going to happen now? You won't see Brian Whelahan there next time, or Joe Errity. They'll be gone."

Whether Whelahan's grim prophesy comes to pass is something that will greatly exercise the mind of new Offaly boss, Mike McNamara, in the coming weeks.

But there can be no denying that the decision to overlook the Birr man yet again smacks of strange logic.

Whelahan is two games away from bringing Birr an unprecedented fourth All-Ireland crown and, on yesterday's evidence, they will be hard to counter.

Adhering to Pat Joe's recipe for countering Kilkenny teams of "ground hurling and hit them hard" (and not mentioning DJ at the team-meeting), the Offaly champions actually won with a bit to spare.

Good preparatory work by DJ and Charlie did dig out a seventh minute goal for Dick Carroll, but the score was an aberration.

With Barry Whelahan especially dominant at midfield, Birr just pushed implacably on.

And, three minutes from half-time, they got the goal their rhythm promised, Rory Hanniffy's 20-yard shot skimming under Martin Carey to the Gowran net.

Birr led by four points (1-4 to 1-0) at the mid-point but now, having to face the wind, that lead was hardly impenetrable. Charlie heightened the tension with a glorious point in the 49th minute but, thereafter, Gowran's ideas just drained away.

Big Pat O'Neill was ferried in from the bench as an unorthodox corner-forward but his only notable contribution would be a clumsy shunt on Niall Claffey that earned a booking.

The contest was over three minutes from time, when Paul Molloy's delivery broke to Simon Whelahan and his first-time pull flew emphatically into the corner.

DJ scored a late free but it was just window-dressing as Birr eased home, courtesy of fine displays from Gary Cahill, Errity, Brian Whelahan, Claffey, Johnny Pilkington, Barry Whelahan and the exceptional, Rory Hanniffy.

Eoghan Farrell and Thomas Drennan had their moments in defence for Gowran while DJ and Charlie gave little flickers of brilliance in attack.

But, as Johnny Pilkington a tad lucky not to see red for an intemperate strike on David Carter surmised: "When Offaly teams play Kilkenny, we're up for it.

"Well, maybe, bar the county scene. In the end, we were more determined than Gowran."

Some tribute to omnipresent champions.

SCORERS Birr: R Hanniffy 1-2, S Whelahan 1-2 (0-1 free), Barry Whelahan 0-1. Young Irelands: D Carroll 1-0, C Carter 0-1, DJ Carey 0-1 (free).

BIRR B Mullins; G Cahill, J Errity, JP O'Meara; D Franks, Brian Whelahan, N Claffey; J Pilkington, Barry Whelahan; D Pilkington, G Hanniffy, R Hanniffy; P Molloy, S Browne, S Whelahan. Sub:- L Power for Browne (41 mins).

YOUNG IRELANDS M Carey; C Carroll, E Farrell, C Fitzgerald; S Byrne, T Drennan, C Phelan; O Carter, J McDermott; J Fitzgerald, J Carey, C Carter; D Carroll, DJ Carey, D Carter. Sub: P O'Neill for D Carter (38 mins).

REF D Murphy (Wexford).

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