TJ Reid and Walter Walsh strike late as Kilkenny hold off brave Offaly
Offaly 1-19 Kilkenny 0-24
Kilkenny had TJ Reid and Walter Walsh to thank as they qualified for yet another League semi-final despite being given an almighty scare by a gallant Offaly side in Bord Na Móna O'Connor Park this afternoon.
Conor Mahon's goal ensured the Faithful – playing with the aid of a stiff first-half breeze in bitterly cold conditions – led 1-10 to 0-10 at the break but the expected second-half barrage from the Cats materialised although the home side kept fighting until the end.
With Shane Dooley, Mahon and Joe Bergin leading the Offaly attack, the sides were level in second-half injury time and it looked like a shock may be on the cards only for the Cats to come good in the end with Reid (0-12) and Walsh (0-4) the go-to men for Brian Cody's side.
It was tit for tat in the early exchanges with Mahon opening the scoring but Ger Aylward was unlucky not to have a goal for the Cats in the 2nd minute, when Eoghan Cahill showed spectacular reflexes to tip his kicked effort over.
The sides were level on five occasions in the opening period before a huge point from Shane Kinsella edged the Faithful back in front in the 27th. Their lead was short-lived, however, as Liam Blanchfield and James Maher pointed for the Cats.
Offaly's efforts then received a huge boost when Mahon used every bit of his 6ft 4in frame to bundle the ball over the line despite having little room to manoeuvre as Kevin Martin's men powered to a three-point half-time lead.
Within seven minutes of the resumption, the Cats were level and when impressive substitute John Donnelly and Reid helped Kilkenny into a three-point lead (0-18 to 1-12) midway through the second-half, it looked like it may turn into one-way traffic.
Offaly deserve huge credit for battling manfully until the end, however, and when Dooley pointed a free in the 70th minute it looked like the 10/1 outsiders might grab a famous win, or at least a draw.
Reid and Walsh weren't having any of it though and both stood tall when the need was greatest as they fired over to book their last four place against the winners of Galway and Wexford.
SCORERS – Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-12 (9f), W Walsh 0-4, L Blanchfield 0-3, J Maher 0-2, J Donnelly 0-2, G Aylward 0-1.
Offaly: S Dooley 0-8 (5f), C Mahon 1-2, J Bergin 0-2, C Egan 0-2, S Kinsella 0-2, C Kiely 0-1, D Currams 0-1, D King 0-1.
KILKENNY – D Brennan; J Holden, P Walsh, P Deegan; C Delaney, C Buckley, C Browne; R Leahy, O Walsh; L Blanchfield, TJ Reid, J Maher; G Aylward, W Walsh, R Reid.
Subs: J Donnelly for O Walsh and L Scanlon for Aylward (both 41), L Ryan for Leahy (61), E Morrissey for Browne (64).
OFFALY – E Cahill; T Spain, S Gardiner, B Conneely; D O'Toole, D Shortt, P Camon; S Kinsella, D King; C Mahon, C Kiely, C Egan; S Dooley, J Bergin, D Currams.
Subs: P Rigney for Gardiner inj (47), O Kelly for Kiely and D Egan for Kinsella (both 58), T Geraghty for C Egan (68), S Ryan for Rigney (blood 73).