FOR THE SECOND successive year Offaly saw their senior hurling championship campaign draw to an end in Páirc Uí Chaoimh tonight when they suffered a 1-26 to 2-16 defeat against Cork.
Last year Offaly put in a brave effort and ran Cork close. They chalked up the exact same scoring total in tonight’s clash but Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side had enough in reserve to pull clear on this occasion and run out winners by a seven-point margin.
The early stages of the game saw the players trade points before then Offaly’s Colin Egan pounced for a breakthrough score that propelled his team into a 1-2 to 0-2 lead by the 9th minute. However Cork worked their way back into the game with Cian McCarthy showing up well and Patrick Horgan grabbing a crucial goal after he was set up by Paudie O’Sullivan.
That strike nudged Cork into a 1-7 to 1-6 lead and they held onto that advantage until the interval embarking on a scoring spree that saw them string together seven points on trot with Horgan, Lorcan McLoughlin and even goalkeeper Anthony Nash involved in raising white flags. Brian Carroll helped trim the gap for Offaly but Cork were still in the ascendancy at the break with a 1-12 to 1-10 lead after an exciting opening-half.
In the second-half Offaly made a fine start with three points in succession and the last of those from Joe Bergin put them into a narrow lead. Yet Cork took over again with Conor Lehane, Cian McCarthy and Nash seeing them move back in front by 1-18 to 1-13. Indeed Cork’s lead could have being greater but for Patrick Horgan seeing the drive he unleashed from a penalty being saved by Offaly defender David Kenny.
Offaly trimmed the gap to two points courtesy of Shane Dooley’s accuracy but Cork upped the tempo once more with substitutes Daniel Kearney and Stephen Moylan making an impression on the scoreboard. Despite a late goal from Dooley, Cork had built up a sufficient advantage to ensure they will face either Wexford or Limerick in phase three next weekend of the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers.