KILKENNY 0-18 OFFALY 0-13 John Harrington A BETTER-balanced Kilkenny never had to shift out of third gear against Offaly in yesterday's listless Leinster Minor Hurling Championship final at Croke Park.
These young Kilkenny hurlers come with glowing references, and though more testing opposition would give a clearer indication of their pedigree, their potential is obvious.
There was still plenty to admire in this performance though, and they are certainly well equipped to retain their All-Ireland title.
The defence is a no-frills, physical powerful unit and gives little away cheaply. Offaly only scored four points from play and were very much reliant on the dead-ball prowess of full-forward Declan Cordial.
At the other end, Kilkenny offered much more menace with only full-forward David McCormack not scoring from play.
James "Cha" Fitzpatrick, Alan Healy, Eoin Guinan and Maurice Nolan are all very knacky hurlers, possessing a neat first touch and good eye for the posts.
Guinan, in particular, troubled the Offaly defence and finished with four points from play.
The only concern from a Kilkenny point of view is that their forwards are all cut from the same cloth. Only centre-forward Austin Murphy brings some obvious physique to the equation, and the lack of heft going forward meant Kilkenny didn't offer any sort of goal threat.
That wasn't an issue yesterday as points were popped over from all angles, but in a tighter match it may well be.
With just five minutes played yesterday, it was already obvious that Kilkenny were the more potent outfit. Their first touch was neater, and striking more fluid.
They quickly opened up a three-point lead with a pretty score from Fitzpatrick and two Richie Power pointed frees.
Offaly were struggling to make much headway past a physically powerful Kilkenny half-back line anchored by Donnacha Cody, son of senior manager Brian, and conversely their own half-backs were shipping water against their direct markers.
Three frees from the accurate Cordial brought Offaly to within one point, but Kilkenny responded with their best spell, scoring seven points to Offaly's one between the 15th and 27th minutes.
Offaly hit back with two points before the break to leave the half-time scoreline reading 0-11 to 0-6 in Kilkenny's favour.
You expected the Cats to really turn on the style in the second half, but they were frustrated by their own lassitude and Offaly's commendable attitude.
There was an obvious gulf in technical ability between the teams, but Offaly never stopped fighting and made life as uncomfortable as they could for Kilkenny.
A number of positional switches saw them compete on a more equal footing around the middle of the field, and with that platform, they dominated the final 20 minutes, outscoring Kilkenny by six points to three.
They never really looked like scoring the goal necessary to really put the cat amongst the pigeons though. Powerful Kilkenny full-back John Tennyson invariably nipped any threatening move in the bud.
So yet another Leinster minor title for Kilkenny, bringing their total to 47. Their recent record makes for sobering reading if you're from Wexford or Offaly as they've now won 13 of the last 14 provincial championships.
SCORERS - Kilkenny: R Power 0-6 (4f), E Guinan 0-4, J Fitzpatrick 0-2, A Murphy 0-2, A Healy 0-2, M Nolan 0-2. Offaly: D Cordial 0-9 (9f), S Delaney 0-3, G O'Grady 0-1.
KILKENNY - C Grant; S Cadigan, J Tennyson, J Dalton; P O'Donovan, D Cody, D Prendergast; R Power, M Fennelly; J Fitzpatrick, A Murphy, A Healy; M Nolan, D McCormack, E Guinan. Subs: D Fogarty for D McCormack (50), R Wall for A Murphy
OFFALY - L Bevans; T Coughlan, P Cleary, C O'Meara; D Hoctor, D Hayden, N Rogers; J Keane, N Ryan; G O'Grady, S Delaney, J Bergin; E Lee, D Cordial, D Molloy. Subs:K Sadler for N Ryan (HT), H Ryan for J Bergin (42), C Parlon for D Molloy (51) E Bevans for G O'Grady (57).
REF - A Stapleton (Laois)