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Lenister Senior Hurling Championship 2016-05-22 10:06:00

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship – Round Robin Group – Round 3
Offaly 3-19 Kerry 0-20

Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin were the chief tormentors of Kerry as the Kingdom crashed out of the Leinster Senior Hurling championship at O’Connor Park Tullamore today. The final score certainly flattered the winners a little as Kerry gave as good as they got right through and it was only in the final 20 minutes or so that the home-side began to justify their favouritism when Joe Bergin goaled following a mix up in the Kerry defence to put Offaly four points to the good.

From there to the end Kerry tried as hard as they could with Brandon Barrett and Shane Nolan keeping the scoreboard ticking over but they found James Dempsey in fine form between the posts for Offaly denying them the goal that they needed. Bergin closed the door firmly in the 71st minute with his second goal to give Offaly a quarter final place against Laois.

It had all started promisingly for the Kingdom who led by three points to one after four minutes and 5 points to 2 after another four. All those 5 points came from different players, including fine scores by Jason Diggins, Brandon Barrett and John Egan but at the other end Shane Dooley was his usual accurate self from frees and three pointed frees, including one from a sideline cut from the ace marksman, had the sides level on 5 points apiece by the 16th minute.

Kerry introduced Michael O’Leary as the half wore on with Dooley continuing to find the range and the likes of John Griffin, and Daniel Collins firing Kerry into a 0-11 to 0-9 lead approaching the break. However disaster struck for Kerry when Dooley tapped home a goal after poor defensive work at the back by Kerry to give his side a 1-9 to 0-11 lead at the break and wind advantage yet to come.

Shane Nolan soon levelled the game on the restart and Kerry stubbornly continued to put it up to the Offaly men with Nolan contributing handsomely before disaster struck from a long ball into the goalmouth that Bergin flicked to the net to change the course of the game for good.

Kerry: Shane Nolan 0-8 (0-6f), Brandon Barrett & John Egan 0-3 each, Daniel Collins & John Griffin 0-2 each, Jason Diggins & Tommy Casey 0-1 each.
Offaly: S Dooley 1-10 (0-8f, 0-1 ’65, 0-1 s/line), J Bergin 2-2, K Connolly 0-2, S Kinsella, J Mulrooney, C Kiely, P Guinan & L Langton 0-1 each.
Kerry: Aidan McCabe; Bryan Murphy, Patrick Kelly, Keith Carmody; Jason Diggins, Darren Dineen, T om Murnane; Daniel Collins, John Griffin; Brandon Barrett, Philip Lucid, Shane Nolan; Jordan Conway, John Egan, Jack Goulding. Subs: Michael O’Leary for Lucid (29), Dougie Fitzell for Murphy (52), Brendan O’Leary for Conway (55), T ommy Casey for Collins (60)
Offaly: J Dempsey; C McDonald, D Shortt, P Rigney; D King, S Gardiner, D Mooney; S Ryan, P Camon; C Kiely, S Kinsella, P Murphy; S Dooley, J Mulrooney, J Bergin. Subs: K Connolly for Camon (35), B Conneelly for Mooney (55), P Guinan for Kinsella (58), L Langton for Murphy (66), S Cleary for Kiely (66)

Kerry face wounded Faithful for place in Leinster SHC Quarter Finals.
By Murt Murphy

Kerry stand on the cusp of history as they know if they avoid losing away to Offaly in Tullamore on this Sunday then they will qualify to face Laois in a Leinster SHC quarter final on June 5th. It would continue a remarkable upward curve in the fortunes of Kerry hurling but they face a wounded Offaly side who need to win this game badly or they will face further ridicule from within their own county. To add further spice to the occasion, Offaly are managed by former Kerry boss Eamonn Kelly and earlier in the League, Kerry beat Offaly on their home patch.

So the scene is set for a cracking contest on Sunday and many feel that Kerry will have to raise their game against an Offaly side that have, in Shane Dooley, one of the most destructive forwards in the country. However Kerry manager Ciaran Carey does not entirely agree “To be fair it’s not a case of the lads raising it for Sunday against Offaly, every time we went out on the field this year we had to raise it. They wouldn’t have maintained their status in Division 1B if they hadn’t raised their game. We are in a position where we have to peak every day and Sunday is no different”.

Despite losing their last game to Westmeath, Carey reckons there were positives to take from that loss “There are positives, to be fair most of their scores came from the midfield third. I thought defensively we coped with Westmeath quite well. It comes down to one game, whether we or Offaly will be going forward but we will be underdogs now and that suits us. We contributed to Westmeath beating us so hopefully we will have learned from it and it will make a difference against Offaly”

The scenario for Kerry is simple – win or draw in Tullamore and they are through to a Leinster quarterfinal, lose and their season is over. Kerry will definitely be without Mikey Boyle who is suspended for the game and is a huge loss both for his ball winning capabilities and his vast experience. It must be a long time since a Kerry team played without a Boyle but it may act as motivation for his team-mates to win for Mikey, one of the most popular players in the squad.
What is certain is that Kerry will need to be at their very best to beat Offaly despite the Faithful counties recent poor run of form. Offaly will look in their hour of need to their two most experienced campaigners Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin for inspiration and Dooley has 1-13 in their two games in the qualifiers to date. Paddy Murphy has scored 1-3 and Joe Bergin 0-3 but there is little else happening up front for Offaly. Shane Kinsella will line up alongside Murphy at midfield and this is an area where Kerry has not performed that well of late - possibly injury and tiredness being factors.

Where Kerry could profit is if they can exploit weaknesses at the back by Offaly who have been leaking a lot of scores. But as well as Mikey Boyle, the O’Leary brothers are not starting and Colum Harty is injured so there is now a very youthful look about the Kerry attack. Brandon Barrett gets Mikey Boyle’s position on the edge of the square, while Jordan Conway comes in at wing forward with Jack Goulding and Shane Nolan completing a completely revamped line. Philip Lucid and John Egan will flank Barrett so a lot will rest on Nolan and Egan to lead the young lads into battle.

Darren Dineen and John Griffin form a new midfield pairing with team captain, Daniel Collins, dropping back to wingback where many believe he plays his best hurling. Jason Diggins switches to cornerback while Keith Carmody moves to wingback. So it’s a very young Kerry team that will be on duty and the experience gained will stand to the younger players who are or have been playing at U-21 level.

If they use this experience Kerry will be more than half way there, with the ability of the Kerry defence to curtail Dooley, being the other vital ingredient. Patrick Kelly, Bryan Murphy, Keith Carmody, Jason Diggins, Daniel Collins and Tom Murnane will need to be disciplined and that means no soft or needless frees and the team as a whole must retain possession and distribute the ball much better that they did against Carlow and Westmeath.

If Kerry manage to do this there is no reason why they cannot beat Offaly and head into historic and unchartered waters. They have proved their worth this year already securing the Div.1B status for 2017 and their place in the Leinster SHC qualifiers, so while Sunday looks a tough ask- they can give it a right rattle!