Majestic Kilkenny obliterate Offaly
Kilkenny's inspirational full forward DJ Carey.
Kilkenny 5-15 Offaly 1-14
By Paul O'Hehir
10/09/00: Incredible. Kilkenny’s brilliant victory in today’s All-Ireland hurling final was as emphatic as most had feared. Offaly’s demise was a harrowing sight. Kilkenny’s potential utterly frightening.
Prior to today’s game, those with an educated opinion believed the tussle between Kilkenny’s full forward line and the Offaly full back line would be the crucial focal point of the game.
And so it proved to be. The sheer alertness and attacking prowess of DJ Carey, Henry Shefflin and Charlie Carter was a joy to behold. Sharp, intelligent and penetrative, they were nothing short of magical.
Carey, himself attempting to overcome a jinx of sorts having not scored in last year’s All-Ireland final, quickly rectified the matter after only six minutes.
Kilkenny’s outstanding right half back, Philip Larkin, struck a free from inside his own half. The ball dropped menacingly in front of Carey. He collected and with an athletic burst of speed, accelerated towards Stephen Byrne’s goal.
Carey had Shefflin available to his right but shot hard and direct to register the first of Kilkenny’s five goals.
Three minutes later, Shefflin was set free in acres of space. He powererd towards goal, but shooting from his left side, he saw his effort blocked on the line by Niall Claffey. But Carey, like a magnet to the ball all afternoon, was on hand to drill it into the back of the Offaly net.
Combined with additional points from Carey, Shefflin and the enterprising Denis Byrne, Kilkenny enjoyed a 2-3 to 0-1 lead before Offaly manager, Pat Fleury, was forced to switch corner backs.
The game was no more than 10 minutes old when Niall Claffey was moved onto Shefflin in an effort to curtail his knack of losing Simon Whelehan.
With many, and possibly the Offaly side themselves, taken aback by Kilkenny’s dynamic start, it was then not surprising that Johnny Dooley’s quick accumulation of frees and 65’s went almost unnoticed, such was the fervor around Croke Park during the first half.
Kilkenny’s trojan half-back line were dominating Offaly’s half forwards to the point of embarrassment. Offaly were forced into switches. Gary Hannify’s move to full forward enabled John Ryan to play a deeper role. Michael Duignan moved to right-half forward forcing the disappointing Johnny Pilkington into the corner.
During a brief spell of dominance towards the end of the first-half, Offaly’s tactical moves appeared to make an impact. Regrettably, it proved to be the only time the 1998 champions would afford such a luxury.
Two more Johnny Dooley frees and a well executed Pilkington point, hit from the most acute of angles, saw a glimpse of the Offaly spirit that blackened out Cork's chances of regaining the Liam McCarthy during their semi-final encounter. But in a matter of moments, what ultimately proved to be the crucial moment of the game, put to rest any hopes of an Offaly resurrection.
Four minutes from half-time, DJ Carey slipped away from his marker Kevin Kinahan. Bursting towards goal, Carey unleashed a shot that was superbly saved by Offaly ‘keeper Stephen Byrne only to be cruelly pushed home by the waiting Charlie Carter. At half-time, Kilkenny enjoyed a 10 point cushion on a scoreline of 3-8 to 0-7.
Pat Fleury knew his side were in dire straits. So at the beginning of the second-half, he switched Brian Whelehan from half back to corner forward, allowing Michael Duignan to slot into the wing back position.
Although benefiting from one of the healthiest half-time advantages in All-Ireland history, Kilkenny could not afford to sit back. Brian Cody’s side needed urgency throughout.
Despite well taken points from Denis Byrne and Charlie Carter, Kilkenny, at times, appeared to be playing individually as opposed to collectively. Attempted long range points were hit woefully wide when playing the ball short and keeping it in play would have been the better option.
The true reflection of Kilkenny’s dominance was reflected by their full forward line knocking over 4-10 of their 5-15 total while in stark contrast Offaly’s equivalent attacking line registered a diabolical 0-1.
Once again, Offaly were forced into making switches with Brian Whelehan and Joe Dooley forming a two-man full forward line. Changes were also made in defence where Niall Claffey, who failed to contain Henry Shefflin, was substituted for David Franks.
Canice Brennan, a hero in defeat last year, was introduced by Brian Cody early in the second half and it was his long, searching ball pumped into the forward line that allowed Shefflin in for his second goal.
Shefflin, only 19-years-old, never took his eye off the dropping ball and duly rounded Kevin Martin to toe-poke the ball into the back of Stephen Byrne’s goal.
John Troy’s introduction proved fruitless while it took points from Johnny Dooley and Brian Murphy to entertain any notions of a most unbelievable comeback.
A well taken Johnny Pilkington goal 11 minutes from time breathed life into some of the Offaly players, but it was obvious to the 60,000 or so spectators their hopes of rescuing the game were shattered.
Points apiece from Brian Whelehan and Johnny Dooley kept Offaly’s depressing scoreline ticking sluggishly over. Deep into injury time, Kilkenny added the final nail in the Offaly coffin when substitute Eddie Brennan sped through the stiff Offaly defence to bury the ball in the back of the net.
In an injury time that prolonged the misery for Offaly, DJ Carey and Carter added to Kilkenny’s total. When referee Willie Barrett’s whistle sounded for full-time, it signaled Kilkenny’s moment to celebrate their 26th All-Ireland Hurling title and their first since 1993.
Commenting on his side’s breathtaking victory, manager Brian Cody said: "There was lots of talk questioning the belief in ourselves before this game, but we never felt the pressure."
He continued: "It is a great feeling but every ounce of credit should go to Offaly. We knew two months ago we could win this championship, I just wanted to win it for the players."
Kilkenny left half back, Peter Barry said: "It’s a great win. It was unbelievably tough...a savage effort."
"It’s a fantastic day," said DJ Carey. "We needed a big effort for the supporters...somedays the ball goes right for you and today it did!."
Relflecting on his side's disappointing performance, Offaly manager Pat Fleury explained: "Kilkenny just wanted it more, that was obvious in their play. We were unlucky to slip up at times and Kilkenny just took advantage."
"It would take an outrageous team to stop Kilkenny at the moment," concluded Fleury.