Dark clouds hovered overhead as Offaly and Fr. Tom’s battledevening. The rain held off, but the men on the Irish Cultural Centre’s main pitch were still in stormy form. When one player tried to flick it over his opponents head, only to end up on the receiving end of a crushing shoulder charge, it became clear this was not going to be a game of finesse.
Fr. Tom’s opened the scoring through Ciaran Moore, which was soon answered by a well-taken point from Offaly’s James Kilmartin. Tom’s added a Fran Keenan free to their tally, then had a great goal chance denied by the Offaly keeper. Gary Sherlock made an excellent reflex save, tipping a Tom’s shot over the bar and turning what looked like a sure three points into just one. However, Fr. Tom’s waved the green flag only a few minutes later. Terry Doonan’s strike sent the sliotar into the corner of the net and the Tom’s into a 1-04 to 0-03 early lead.
From there, Offaly gradually grew into the game, and their success in winning puck outs began to power their attack. James Kilmartin led the charge for the Faithful County. It became a familiar sight to see his hurl carving an arc through the air, sending over yet another point. By halftime, Offaly led by a point.
In the second half, Cathal Mahon was dominant in midfield for Offaly. His concise passes deep into the forward lines resulted in a quick goal and a point from Barry McNamara. Fr. Tom’s stayed within striking distance with a fine score from Aidan Davoren. Then the men in green and black dropped a high ball onto Fran Keenan on the edge of the Offaly square. The target man broke the ball down to a teammate, who was dragged down inside the box. Keenan sent the ensuing penalty zooming past the Offaly keeper to reduce the deficit to three points.
Offaly quickly added two more points beside their name on the scoreboard, but the talking point in this match came with only minutes left. What was still a close game dissolved after a simmering dispute away from the ball erupted. A Tom’s player mistook the green, white, and orange Offaly jersey for a tree and started chopping away at his marker. When the game was brought back under control, time was up and it finished 1-18 to 2-10 in favor of Offaly.
Fr. Tom’s: S. O’Brien, P. Flynn, J. Dooley, A. Davoren, S. Higgins, D. Burke, J. Martyn, N. Armstrong, T. Doran, C. O’Donoghue, F. Keenan, L. Moore, C. Moore, K. Ryan
Offaly: G. Sherlock, A. Bergin, J. Murray, A. Camon, A. McRedmond, C. McMahon, C. Mahon, R. Reynolds, J. Kilmartin, L. Kiely, D. Kealy, C. Flynn, B. McNamara, C. McDermot, J. Barry, T. Rioney
By Mark Dunphy