Offaly and Wexford met in a physical encounter on Sunday afternoon that saw the teams battle back and forth until Offaly was left standing two points clear.
The first score of the match was a beautiful goal by Conor O’Shaugnessy for Wexford, who added a point off the ensuing puck out for an early advantage. Offaly reeled them back in with three straight points.
Lyndon Kiely fired over a point for Wexford on the run, then spun around his defender on the next play to win a free. Sean Whalen tapped it over to extend Wexford’s lead.
Niall Mannion got his name on the scoresheet for Offaly with three successive frees, the last of which was a soaring effort from his own 65. The referee was kept busy in this one as hurls and bodies clashed around the middle of the field.
Minutes later, O’Shaugnessy took his marker on a long jaunt down the sideline —bouncing the the sliotar on his hurl until he deemed the range adequate, then sticking it over the bar.
Eoghan Kavanagh added a second goal for Wexford right before the haltime whistle. Kavanagh left a sizable crowd of Offaly defenders in his wake en route to the penalty spot, where reared back and raised the roof of the net. Wexford led by six points at the break.
Whatever was said in Offaly’s halftime huddle worked, because they had four points on the board before Wexford realized the second half had begun. After a quick point off the throw in, they strung together a series of short passes inside the Wexford 45 that ended with Mannion burying a goal.
Wexford responded with a point to stem the bleeding, but Offaly found the back of the net again minutes later to draw level at 2-11 apiece. Brian Ramsey added another point for Offaly soon afterwards, then watched Mannion pad their lead with a confident blast from well outside the 21 meter line.
Wexford didn’t blink and forced the game to go down to the wire. First, Jamie Kehoe carried a defender on his back as he maneuvered into the square, left his hurl behind, and kicked the sliotar over the bar.
Then, after a free pulled them within two points, they had a glorious chance to win in the final seconds. The Offaly was scrambling under pressure as the ball skipped around the square, but it ended up squirming out just wide of the post and Offaly held on for a 2-18 to 3-17 win.
Colm Kierns, Mark Birmingham, Tom Davey, Tom Maloney, Shane Dolan, Liam Og Maguire, Jamie Kehoe, Shane Bourke, Lyndon Kiely, Eoghan Kavanagh, Jason Foley, Sean Whalen, Conor O’Shaugnessy Subs: Peter Ryan, Kevin Joyce, Paddy Naughton, Cormac Kelly, Johnny Fyre, Denis Brennan
Gary Sherlock, Emmett Moran, Conor Grimes, Tomas Quirk, Oisin McCormack, Seamus Loftus, Donal O’Dwyer, Cillian Campbell, Niall Mannion, Cian Clifford, James Risney, Brian Ramsey, Stephen Brown Subs: Jack Murray, Chris McMahon, Jack Dunphy, Tomas Jackman, Jack Whelan, Eric Finn