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HURLING: Offaly end Clare’s minor odyssey

All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Clare 0-18 Offaly 2-16

OFFALY advance into the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Final after overcoming Clare, 2-16 to 0-18 at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Friday evening, writes Jamesy McConigley. Adam Screeney and Conor Doyle’s goals proved pivotal for the Faithful, ending Clare’s involvement at the grade. The opening exchanges were a scrappy affair with neither side able to register a shot on target until Jack O’Neill broke the deadlock for the Banner with seven minutes of action played. Brian O’Connell’s outfit hit a purple patch, adding on three further scores. Points from Oisin Whelan (2) either side of one from James Organ propelled Clare into a four point lead, however, Offaly would have a profitable few minutes, tallying 1-3 in reply. Clare were penalised on two separate occasions for illegitimate handpasses which handed the opportunity for Adam Screeney and Dan Ravenhill to point for Leo O’Connor’s team. Donal Shirley landed a long range point before the game received its first goal through the dynamism of Screeney. Scores fluctuated for the second-quarter with six points equally shared between the pair, ending the opening half with Offaly leading 1-6 to 0-7.

The Banner were in search of a quick restart and Jack O’Neill’s point closed the gap to the minimum. Seconds later, Offaly grabbed their second goal when Conor Doyle finished well into the town end after a powerful solo run. With their tails up, the midlands men added on two further points through Screeney’s free-taking. Trailing by six, Clare saw a resurgence, recording four consecutive points through Whelan (2), Scanlon and Stritch. The action heated up as the atmosphere raised a notch. Three points in as many minutes demonstrated this when two inspirational points from distance by the Offaly number 11, Dan Ravenhill were answered by James Organ. The contest continued to ebb and flow before the floodlights took an impromptu break.

Points were traded by both sides before points from Neylon (2) and Oisin Whelan reduced the contest back to a one score game. Probing for parity, the clock soon became the Banner’s enemy and when Leigh Kavanagh squeezed his effort over Mark Sheedy’s crossbar, Clare were back chasing two scores to stay in the hunt. Whelan and Ravenhill converted frees for their respective side before the Clarecastle forward brought it back to a maximum score needed. However, the night belonged to Offaly and it was fitting that Adam Screeney struck over his fifth point to end a memorable game for the corner forward, finishing the action with 1-05 to his name. Offaly now await the winners of Tipperary and Galway in the other semi-final.

Clare: Mark Sheedy; Eoghan Gunning, Fionan Treacy, John Cahill; Seán McMahon, James Hegarty, Jamie Moylan; Matthew O’Halloran, Diarmuid Stritch; Michael Collins, Jack O’Neill, James Organ; Sam Scanlon, Oisin Whelan, Cian Neylon. Subs: Piarás O’Sé for Collins (40 mins), Dylan Keane Hayes for Neylon (57 mins), Riain McNamara for Moylan (62 mins), Fred Hegarty for Whelan (64 mins).

Scorers: Oisin Whelan (0-08, 6f, 1(65), Cian Neylon (0-03), Jack O’Neill, Jack Organ (0-02 each), Sam Scanlon, Diarmuid Stritch and Matthew O’Halloran (0-01 each).

Offaly: Liam Hoare; Caelum Larkin, James Mahon, Ruairí Kelly; Donal Shirley, Brecon Kavanagh, Ter Guinan; Leigh Kavanagh, Cillian Martin; Shane Rigney, Dan Ravenhill, Conor Doyle; Cathal Robinson, Niall Furlong, Adam Screeney. Subs: Daniel Hand for Robinson (HT), Shane Connolly for Martin (62 mins)

Adam Screeney (1-05, 5f), Dan Ravenhill (0-06, 3f), Conor Doyle (1-00), Donal Shirley, Daniel Hand, Leigh Kavanagh, Cillian Martin and Shane Rigney (0-01 each).

Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).

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