Offaly are the senior hurling champions for the sixth year in a row after a hard fought battle where they broke the game open in the second half but lived dangerously at the wire. The game opened with nasty scenes in the first two minutes with off the ball incidents across the field. Some of the incidents happened before the game started in fact and they showed all the wrong sides of hurling.
When the game got going it was stopped two and a half minutes in when a full fledged melee started on the forty yard line at the Offaly end. The third man in to the incident was partly the instigator but when mentors arrived in from the line they made the scene far worse. Bottom line is if an incident between two sides in any contest is left to the players and referee, 999 out of 1000 it will get settled easily. When people arrive in from outside the lines it makes it hundreds times worse. A mentor from each side was removed from the pitch and after another five minutes of nastiness it must be said a proper good game of hurling took place. The brilliant play of Naill McManus in the second half took over for Offaly. He scored 1-06 in that thirty minute spell and despite a stirring comeback from Tipperary the Premier ended up with defeat for the second time on Sunday, once on each side of the Atlantic.
The game began in the worst way possible with the above mentioned melee, however a Tipperary player could have already have been booked for a late challenge that left Killian Lenard on the ground. The first score came from Killian Lenard for Offaly. It was followed by the first goal of the encounter. A long ball from Aiden McInerney was pounced on by Dan Dwyer and he dispatched to the net with just fiver minutes gone. The game was still being played with a negative impact however. Dan Dwyer had a second goal chance but his screamer went narrowly wide before Eamonn Dillon had Tipp’s third point to leave the early score line at 1-01 to 0-03 with a sixth of the game over. Eoin Dillon with a long free and Naill McMorrow with a beauty of the left side he was hugging they sideline moved the score forward before Tipp put back to back points up to edge in front. Benny Dunne had the second a long range drive that showed his undoubted talent. As the game came to the break both sides had huge opportunities to forge positive impacts. It went in two different ways. Points from Offaly’s Boland and McManus put the side ahead but a 21 yard free for Offaly when Naill McManus was fouled was blocked by the defense and the rebound was also parried to safety. A long ball into Alan Gleason at the other end was fouled by the keeper as he was under pressure. The resulting free was driven to the net by Seamus Hennessy off the hurl of a defender. Offaly got level before the break with points from two Shane McNaughton frees, they came in quick succession. It left the sides all level at the break 1-06 a piece.
The second half was the Naill McManus show and his performance in the last quarter was nothing short of sublime. Tipperary had three points to open the half with McMorrow, two and Brian Brooks the scorers. They were cancelled out by three McManus frees however to again leave us in parity with seven minutes gone. The sides swapped scores but the difference was a point at the Tipp end while Offaly’s was a goal from Brian McNaughton when a Killian Lenard shot was parried into his path. While Tipp replied with points from Dunne and McMorrow Offaly again put the sword to work with a point from McManus and a cracking goal from Sambo McNaughton when he got on the end of a Pat Hartley delivery. After further swapped scores the play of the game arrived with Naill McManus the star. He won possession on the right and soloed for forty yards, breaking tackles before driving the ball to the back of the net for a brilliant goal. He followed it with a point from play and with five minutes left, Offaly had a 4-12 to 1-14 lead. It looked lights out for Tipperary but they had one last burst in them. Both sides had points before Sambo McNaughton put eight between the sides with Offaly’s final score. Tipp foraged again and the inside forward line of Dillon and McMorrow had a goal each after goal mouth scrambles to narrow the deficit less than a score.
Time ran out however as their last chance was scrambled out for a 65 by the Faithful defense and the resulting stroke dropped short as the buzzer sounded for the victory.
Offaly had excellent performances from Pat Hartley; Eoin Dillon whop had his best game of the season, Aiden McInerney, and the brilliant Naill McManus. Sambo McNaughton was excellent while Killian Menard and sub Brian McNaughton had valuable contributions. Tipperary had a huge part in a great final 55 minutes. Seamus Hennessy had a brilliant hour, he did basically everything his side asked of him and more, a lot of McManus’s good work was when he was switched off the big man. Benny Dunne and Dave Loughnane both had positives in the middle, Dunne took his scores well. Naill McMorrow and Eamonn Dillon had very good innings with McMorrow clinical from frees.
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