By Mike Fitzpatrick
Tipperary 1-21, Offaly 1-19
Tipperary made it three wins in a row against the side that have proved to be their most competitive junior hurling foe to date Sunday at Gaelic Park. A final date with Galway was the prize both teams fought for and on occasion it looked as if Offaly could have swiped this semifinal from the clutches of their nemesis.
A storming performance from Offaly forward Dan Shanahan was not enough to clinch the win for his side and Tipperary had goalkeeper Dave Lonergan to thank on more than one occasion for his outstanding performance between the posts. The game had a number of noteworthy performances, but standing above the rest were Tipperary’s Pat Croke and his rival Dan Shanahan.
Tipperary’s Paul Hogan opened the scoring early in the first half with a well-taken point, and this was followed by a flurry of activity at either end, courtesy of points by Tipp’s Mark Keeshan and Pat Croke and Offaly’s Shanahan and Bennett. The first half proved to be exactly what everybody had anticipated, with much scoring by both sides. Tipperary went in at the interval leading Offaly by 0-14 to 0-11, Pat Croke having had a wonderful first 30 minutes for Tipp, scoring eight points.
Offaly can consider themselves unlucky, though. It’s not often that a team can match their eventual victorious opponents in so many areas and finish up on the losing side, but Offaly did match Tipperary. Shanahan was almost as good as Tipp’s Croke in his point-scoring total and his teammates Brendan Kirby and Colm Scanlon also contributed to Offaly’s indomitable spirit. Never has this reporter witnessed more hurley sticks broken in one contest. Every ball was fiercely fought for as if it were the championship final itself.
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Mark Keeshan continued his good form of late with another solid display for Tipp, as did Shane Ryan of Tipperary and Dave Reynolds of Offaly. Offaly’s Shanahan was terribly unfortunate in the final five minutes when his goal-bound effort thundered against the bar, missing a golden opportunity to level the game. Croke and O’Meara scored the final two points for Tipperary to sneak the game, and a final tie with Galway.
Best on the day were Dan Shanahan for Offaly, who never shirked from a single challenge, and Pat Croke for Tipperary, who scored almost everything he attempted. Sean Donoghue for Offaly also deserves a mention for yet another lion-hearted display in midfield.
Tipperary lineout and scorers: Dave Lonergan, John Kissane, James O’Meara, Shane Ryan (0-1), Francis O’Meara (0-1), Robbie Quinlan (0-1), Mike Maloney, Pat Croke (0-12), Andrew Ryan, Mark Keeshan (1-4), Paul Hogan (0-1), Ronan Queegan (0-1).
Offaly: Brendan Landers, John Hyland, Jim Millar, Johnny Hanlon, Enda Condron, Dave Reynolds, Jimmy Hughes, Sean Donaghue, Dan Shanahan (0-9), Eamonn Bennett (1-4), Brendan Kirby (0-3), Colm Scanlon (0-1), Sean Coleman (0-1),. sub, Pat Leavy (0-1).