Offaly relegated to Christy Ring as Kerry's inspirational leader stands up again
Kerry 1-18 Offaly 1-16
After all the premature proclamations, Offaly hurling has hit its rock bottom to date. They have been relegated to Christy Ring hurling after an impressive Kerry team outperformed them in Austin Stack Park on Saturday.
Faithful fans will point to a pair of crucial refereeing decisions that undoubtedly altered the day but on the whole, the Kingdom were good value for their win.
Offaly began like a team who shouldn't have been in this precarious position at all. Cillian Kiely, Kevin Connolly and Shane Dooley reeled off early scores as they raced into a four point lead early on.
The shot to the foot always comes with Offaly though. And we didn't have to wait long on Saturday.
They may have been slightly unlucky this time around with Peter Geraghty's retaliating snig at a Kerry man appearing more harmless than vicious. Colm Lyons wasn't taking any prisoners though and the Kilcormac/Killoughey man saw the line.
Kerry were in business.
And they played themselves into the game. Shane Conway pinged three frees in a row, Jack Goulding also chipped in. Mikey Boyle took over the game at centre back while former All-Ireland winning Clare panellist Pat Kelly (not the goalkeeper) scored a hard earned point.
Sean Cleary's gallant efforts kept Offaly alive but some tremendous vision from that man Shane Conway made the Faithful climb even steeper. The Lixnaw man spotted Padraig Boyle, that Ballyduff leader ghosting in behind and once beautifully picked out, he shortened the grip exquisitely before finishing it low and out of Eoghan Cahill's reach.
That set them up for a 1-7 to 0-6 half-time lead. Offaly were in bother.
Kerry 1-7 Offaly 0-6
Offaly in bother here. Kerry on top. Wonderful vision from Shane Conway sets up Padriag Boyle goal
Early Offaly red card to Peter Geraghty having big influence pic.twitter.com/BcSYqW4hXr
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) June 15, 2019
They launched a mini-revival after the break though. Eoghan Cahill made a couple of decent saves before Shane Dooley began making his presence felt.
The Tullamore man won a couple of hard-earned balls on the inside line and Shinrone sharpshooter Sean Cleary was the beneficiary. He hit two points, his third and fourth of the day, in a three minute spell after being set up by Dooley.
Kerry were just simply the better team though. Shane Conway wasn't on a whole lot of ball but any ball he was on he made count. His namesake Jordan was causing wreck, the left hander's pace and instinct helping him to a couple of points.
The two Boyles, Mikey and Padraig were also dominant, though Padraig can count himself slightly lucky. Colm Lyons issued a yellow rather than red when the forward caught Shane Kinsella with a shoulder to the head, though it did look accidental.
Conway, Harty and Conway again put them 1-18 to 1-13 up with five left and it was a lead they wouldn't relinquish. They held onto win by two in the end.
The Conways were exceptional but Padraig Boyle was the main man for them.
21 years on from their last All-Ireland title, Offaly have reached the lowest ebb of their hurling history. They will be playing in Christy Ring hurling next year.
As for Kerry, they'll stay up in this competition for next year with lots to build on.
The Laois Westmeath game finished a 1-22 1-22 draw and both of those teams will contest the final on June 30.