By Mike Fitzpatrick
Galway 1-9 Offaly 1-21
Junior Hurling in New York may never be the same again. With only five clubs contesting the championship this year, and the winners of this clash elevating their status to senior level, next year’s junior league may only contain a mere four clubs. This leaves a massive question mark over the future of Junior Hurling in the city.
The conquerors of this game Sunday at Gaelic Park could well be the last to hold a junior title for some time. But what about the game itself? A high-scoring encounter was on the cards from the start, with forwards like Offaly’s Joe Errity and Brendan Kirby and Galway’s Mike Kearns and Mike Curtin involved in the tie, we were clearly about to witness a score fest.
Kirby opened the scoring for his side followed by Dave Reynolds, who chipped over a fine free. Curtin and Kearns, who between them hit six early points, brought the game to a more even keel. Galway’s Pat Finneran cleaned up a messy mass of confusion in the Galway box, where, with Declan Pilkington of Offaly looming, a goal could well have been scored. Pilkington got his revenge soon enough, however, swapping passes with Kirby and Reynolds. He fired a seemingly low shot that gathered momentum as it traveled goalward and sailed over the bar.
Kirby and the inspirational John Hanlon it points for Offaly, who clearly began moving ahead. Paddy Donaghue in the Galway goal produced some fine saves, but his forward line continued to crumble against the powerful Offaly backline. Despite Curtin hitting a goal for Galway, his side seemed to lack motivation, and rather than chase more scores, it was Offaly who reacted stronger and quicker to the goal.
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Pilkington and Kirby got on the scoresheet twice each, followed by more over the bar efforts from Coleman and Joe Errity. Galway appeared to collapse under the strain of Offaly’s on-form forward and Offaly refused to sit back. Errity scored three more points, two from free’s and one-point resulting in some great teamwork with Kirby. Colm Scanlon of Offaly gained possession 15 yards from goal, and as the ball lay on the ground, he lashed out with his foot, taking everybody by surprise and unleashed a powerful football-style shot passed the hapless Paddy Donaghue and into the net. The game continued with Offaly doing all the attacking, for Galway the curtain upon their season was falling, and the fat lady had sung and gone off to eat 14 pizzas.
Scoring an impressive tally of one goal and 21 points, this Offaly side could be one to look out for next season, proving they can attack as well as they defend, and with the commanding presence of Eamonn Coleman and John Hanlon on their side, they could go further than many would imagine next year.
As for Galway? Let’s hope their side stays together and we can still witness them grace the Junior Hurling stage next year.
Galway: Paddy Donaghue, Vincent Ruane, Liam Madden, Pat Finneran, Dara Leonard, Enda Lally, Eamonn Shields, Donal Flynn, Cathal Kenny, Mike Kearns (0-3), Mike Curtin (1-6), Tommy Ryan.
Offaly: Brian Mullins, Jim Miller, Sean Nolan, Dave Reynolds (0-1), Edna Condron, Jimmy Hughes, Eamonn Coleman (0-3), Sean Donaghue (0-1), John Hanlon (0-2), Joe Errity (0-5), Brendan Kirby (0-5), Declan Pilkington (0-4), Colm Scanlon (1-0).