By Jack Flynn
Tipperary 4-16, Offaly 1-9
Tipperary, which has long been terrorizing opposing hurling clubs at the senior level, has a worthy counterpart at the junior level as well. Tipp’s 4-16 to 1-9 demolition of Offaly in the Junior Hurling knockout final at Gaelic Park on Sunday was a testament to the club’s rich history.
Shane Ryan, who scored two of Tipperary’s goals on Sunday, was gracious in victory, giving Offaly due credit for putting up a strong fight.
“We ran away with it a bit at the end,” Ryan said. “The score didn’t reflect the closeness of the encounter.”
While Tipperary did pad their lead by scoring 12 of the match’s final 13 points, this one was over after 30 minutes. Offaly found themselves down by 2-10 to 0-5 at the break and were never able to recover.
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The match was even at first, with both teams trading scores like two cautious boxers feeling out their opponent. Brendan Kirby was Offaly’s shining star in the first half, matching nearly every Tipperary point with one of his own, usually off of a free.
But with the score 0-5 to 0-4 in favor of Tipp, the bottom fell out on Offaly. Ten points later, the score was 2-9 to 0-4 for Tipperary, and Offaly was hopelessly out of the running.
John Leahy, who had a fine match for Tipperary, started the run off with two straight long points off frees to give his side an 0-7 to 0-4 lead. Ryan scored to make it a 4-point advantage, then a good flick by Paul Hogan set up Ryan’s first goal on the afternoon.
Offaly keeper Liam Coughlan did a fine job just to get his hurley on to Ryan’s shot, but the sheer power of the blast was too much for him to handle. The ball fell just over the line, and Tipperary had a 1-8 to 0-4 lead.
Pat Croke scored another goal just seconds later and this time Coughlan had no chance at stopping the mighty blow.
Ryan followed Croke’s goal with another point before Offaly’s Sean Donoghue finally broke the Tipperary scoring run with a point of his own.
Despite being down 11 points to start, Offaly used two points from Kirby and one from Jim Miller to give their faithful a glimmer of hope early in the second half.
But with the score 2-10 to 0-8, Ryan struck a killing blow to the dreams of Offaly fans with his second goal of the game. The goal was sandwiched between points from Leahy, and Tipp’s large lead was restored once again.
Offaly refused to give up, however, and a wonderful goal through a sea of hurleys from Donoghue was followed by a Pat Leavy point, making the score 3-12 to 1-9 in favor of Tipperary.
With no desire to let their opponents get any closer, Tipperary scored four straight points to take an insurmountable 3-16 to 1-9 lead. With little time left on the clock, Croke scored his second goal of the afternoon, to serve as insurance just in case Offaly had one more run still in them. They didn’t, and Croke’s score was the last of the match.
Tipperary scorers: Ryan 2-3, Croke 2-1, Leahy 0-6, Keeshan 0-4, O’Connor and Hogan 0-1.
Offaly: Donoghue 1-1, Kirby 0-6, Miller and Leavy 0-1.