Offaly retain Leinster U20 Hurling title with three-point win over Dublin in Portlaoise thriller

The Faithful are now qualified for an All-Ireland U20 final against Cork or Tipperary, although they almost let it slip during the chaotic scenes at the end of a memorable decider in Portlaoise.

When Dan Bourke scored a free-kick to make the score 1-18 to 0-15 in the first minute of added time, the younger members of a crowd of more than 15,000 dominated by Offaly could not contain themselves and flooded the O’Moore Park. causing a two minute delay.

Conn Rock then scored a Dublin goal, and Offaly had one more Dublin attack to defend before securing their second consecutive Leinster U20 title.

Within the hour, Offaly almost deserved their victory, but Dublin went to great lengths to calm the crowd and upset the odds in the opening exchanges, as they took a 0-5 to 0-2 lead.

Neil Hogan and Diarmaid Ó Dúlaing were excellent in the backbone of the Dublin attack, but the real star of the show was sweeper Brendan Kenny, who read the game superbly, scored two first-half points and was the launching pad for a multitude of attacks in Dublin.

Gradually, Offaly’s tenacity began to turn the tide, particularly in midfield, where Colin Spain and Cathal King dominated the trenches, and once Shane Rigney fielded a Spain line and smashed it into the net. They went into half-time with a 1-7 to 0-8 lead, with the wind advantage still to come.

Offaly’s Adam Screeney in action against Dublin’s Cathal Kennedy during the Leinster GAA Hurling U20 Championship Final match between Dublin and Offaly at Laois Hire O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The Faithful had enough chances to defeat Dublin early in the second half, but goals from both sides were a feature of a game where the breeze really tested the shooters at both ends of the field.

In Screeney and Bourke, Offaly had the two players who looked least affected by the wind and once Liam Hoare got his second penalty save in a week, this time deflecting a Diarmaid Ó Dúlaing effort for a 65, Offaly looked like They could go ahead and win well.

It was more of a stumble than a march toward the finish line, but once the final whistle sounded, a jubilant and excited crowd didn’t care.

Scorers – Offaly: A Screeney 0-9 (6f, 1 65); S Rigney 1-1; D Bourke 0-4 (1f); C Spain, C Doyle, E Burke, D Shirley 0-1 each. Dublin: D Ó Dúlaing 0-6 (2 65s, 2f), N Hogan, B Kenny 0-3 each; Rock C 1-0; D Purcell, C Ó Riain, J Conroy 0-1 each.

Offaly: L Hoare; Kelly R, Miller B, Mahon J; Guinan T, Kavanagh B, Shirley D; C Spain, C King; Rigney S, Bourke D, Doyle C; A Kavanagh, B Egan, A Screeney. Substitutes: L Kavanagh for Egan (36), E Burke for A Kavanagh (43).

Dublin: K. Hogan; Groarke C, Lucey D, Kennedy C; E Keys, C Dolan, B Kenny; C Ó Riain, F Murphy; J Conroy, D Ó Dúlaing, J Behan; D Purcell, N Hogan, O Gaffney. Substitutes: C Newton for Murphy (30+1), C Rock for Hogan (47), D Bannan for Keys (50).

Referee: Caymon Flynn (Westmeath).

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