Leinster MHC preliminary round
Despite putting up a brave showing and threatening to take control of this game at times, Kildare's promising year came to an end this afternoon as they were comfortably beaten by an Offaly side who really should have won by more in the end.
Kildare didn't trouble the scorekeeper in the final quarter, while Offaly failed to convert many of the chances they created throughout a game that they ultimately dominated, striking 18 wides in a showing that will cause their own management plenty of concern in the aftermath of this game.
For the home side it was Ciarán Tobin who once again stood out, finishing as the top scorer on the field with a personal tally of 1-7, but the Leinster Minor League champions were rather blunt in attack in the absence of the suspended duo of Sean Cullen and Ian Blackburne. The loss means that they're now out of the championship, and they won't even have a 'B' Championship to look forward to after last week's win over Carlow brought them a round too far to go into that competition.
Offaly looked lively right from the off as they strung together a move that was as pleasant on the eye as it was threatening, which ultimately finished with Conor Langton being fouled and Aaron Kenny stroking over a close range free.
Ciarán Tobin responded in kind with his first of the day almost instantaneously, but Kenny rifled over his first from play soon after to put Offaly back in front. Predictably, Tobin offered a response once again, this time angling over a superb effort under pressure from the right wing, but Offaly began to exert a bit more dominance upon proceedings thereafter.
The Faithful youngsters' goal arrived after five minutes, and there was a certain slice of fortune to it. Aaron Deegan had done superbly to block a shot for a point by Langton, but the ball landed into the palm of Joey Keenaghan and he batted home a simple goal. Kenny followed up with a free to stretch the gap out to four points before Daragh Doyle offered a brief respite from the Offaly pressure by flicking over a close range score.
Kildare's exit strategy severely lacked any thought process at times, and after working hard to win a turnover close to their own goal they shot themselves in the foot by clearing the ball aimlessly to midfield, allowing Conor Quinn to convert from distance under little pressure. Oisín Hickey followed up with a good point from long range as Offaly ran into a comfortable five-point lead.
For all their bright play and dominance, Offaly were failing to convert that into scores as they lacked the killer instinct on front of goal that could have put the game beyond Kildare's reach. It gave Mairtín Boran's men a chance to stay in the game, and they went point for point with the visitors until the end of the half. Tobin knocked over two frees and a '65, while Kevin Aherne blazed over the point of the game with a fabulous over the shoulder effort from 60 metres out.
Offaly's scores in that spell of the game came through David Nally, Keenaghan and Kenny, but Kildare went into the half-time break trailing by just 1-8 to 0-7, leaving them well within touching distance going into the second half.
The second half took a number of minutes to really spring to life, with just a couple of points from Keenaghan either side of another free from Tobin, but the Kildare centre-forward soon injected some much needed energy into proceedings when he belted home a 40th minute goal. It came after Faithful centre-back Barry Keeley tried to barge his way out of the large parallelogram, resulting in a 21 metre free for Kildare. Tobin chose the low route rather than the high road and duly found the back of the net through a crowd of Offaly bodies.
Kildare were able to call on James Burke - a player who has missed much of this year through injury - for the final 20 minutes, and he made an almost instant impact when he clawed a long ball from Liam O'Flynn out of the air at the edge of the square, turned and unleashed a low shot on goal, but his effort was saved by Offaly custodian Ciaran Flynn. Burke was fouled as he attempted the shot however, meaning Tobin could cut the gap to just two points with 15 minutes left to play.
It looked perfectly set up for Kildare to instigate a win during the final quarter, but their challenge wilted badly as Offaly's defence became watertight and their substitutes made a big impact. The Lilywhites failed to score again, and the visiting side comfortably managed the remainder of the game by finding vital scores through Hickey, Kenny, Keenaghan and Nally before the end.
Scorers for Kildare: C Tobin 1-7(1-5f, 1'65), K Aherne and D Doyle 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: J Keenaghan 1-4, A Kenny 0-4(3f), D Nally 0-3, C Quinn and O Hickey 0-2 each.
M Doyle; E Prizeman, R Hogan(J Burke 40mins), A Deegan; H Carroll, J Dolan, L Conroy; R Boran, R Monaghan; K Aherne, C Tobin, L O'Flynn; B Stynes, D Doyle(A Bergin 57mins), B Tobin.
C Flynn; L O'Connor, C O'Meara, A King; C Guinan, B Keeley, P Cantwell; D Nally, C Quinn; M O'Brien(A Maher 41mins), O Hickey, C Langton; L Kavanagh(S O'Toole 55mins), J Keenaghan, A Kenny.
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