By Mike Fitzpatrick
Tipperary 2-15, Offaly 4-6
The last time these Tipperary and Offaly met was a couple of weeks ago in the Knockout Cup final. On that occasion, Tipperary emerged successful in a performance that did much to establish their reputation as one of the more favored sides to capture the 1998 Junior Championship. Both sides had quite a lot at stake, Tipperary needed the win to further their championship hopes, while Offaly, not out of the race themselves, desperately wanted to overturn the side that beat them so convincingly in the Knockout competition last month. We were expecting an exciting and high scoring game Sunday at Gaelic Park, and that’s what we got.
Right from the start, both sides produced an entertaining brand of hurling, with Tipperary opening the scoring with points from Mark Keeshan and Ronan Queenan. Offaly replied thanks to a fine solo effort from Sean Donaghue and another two from Brendan Kirby. The game continued at an exciting pace and there was a flurry of scoring from both forward lines before the half. There was never more than a few points in it, with the action changing from end to end throughout the first period. James O’Meara battled his way through a number of challenges from the Offaly defense to score a great goal, but this was replied to in style by Offaly’s Brendan Coughlan, to bring us into the second half with Offaly trailing by four points, 1-8 to 1-4.
The second period opened in the same explosive manner, with each side scoring a goal, courtesy of Pat O’Connor for Offaly and Keeshan for Tipperary. The Tipp players really started to hammer the points home, whereas Offaly seemed to rely on the goal scoring form of their forwards. Shane Ryan opened his account for the day with a well-taken point for the Tipperary men and Brendan Kirby replied with the best score of the day, resulting in a goal for Offaly. The tie remained on a seemingly even keel throughout, though toward the end it became obvious that Tipperary needed the win more than their rivals, Offaly. A brave performance from Offaly, coming close at times to upstaging their opponents, almost suggested that they had the game at their mercy, but Tipperary’s strength in depth eventually proved to be too much for them. A deserved win for Tipperary, though in a game where either side could have snatched victory.
Tipperary scorers: David Lonergan, David Cummins, John Kissane, Francis O’Meara, Declan Burke, Andrew Ryan, Robbie Quinlan (0-2), Michael Moloney, James O’Meara (1-1), Shane Ryan (0-3), Mark Keeshan (1-3), Paul Hogan (0-2), Ronan Queenan (0-4).
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Offaly: Brendan Landers, John Hyland, Jim Miller, Sean Nolan, Sean Donoghue (0-1), Joe Hogan, Pat Hogan, Pat Leavy, John Hanlon, Dave McCann, Brendan Kirby (1-3), Brendan Coughlan (1-1), Pat O’Connor (2-1).