Offaly 1-17 Carlow 2-11
Shane Dooley lifted the pressure on the crisis-hit Offaly hurlers with a personal haul of 1-10 as they edged out Carlow by 1-17 to 2-11 in the Leinster SHC Round Robin series at O'Connor Park.
The Faithful men had to battle for a three points success as they restored some pride following their heavy defeat to Westmeath a week earlier.
Carlow finished the game with 13 men, due to straight red cards for Diarmuid Byrne and Hugh Paddy O’Byrne in the final five minutes as their chances of a first win in the series faded, in front of a sparse crowd of just 950.
Offaly suffered a pre-match blow with the loss of their captain and centre back Colin Egan, who picked up a rib injury during midweek training.
They were soon on the back foot, going three points behind in the opening three minutes, Seamus Murphy, Sean Murphy and James Doyle all firing over quick-fire points.
By the fifth minute the Barrowsiders were 0-5 to 0-1 ahead and exposing huge gaps in the home defence.
Kevin McDonald eased out in front of his marker too easily to swing over a score, while James Doyle charged through virtually unchallenged to land his second.
It was Kevin Connolly who nailed Offaly’s opening score, but they were heavily dependent on Shane Dooley’s exceptional finishing as they clawed their way back into the game.
He sent over an exquisite sideline cut, as well as a string of frees, punishing uncertainty in the Carlow defence.
Pat Camon got into the midfield trenches to dig out valuable possession which drove the Fairthul men forward, and Dooley obliged with the scores that sent them three points clear by the 28th minute.
But danger was never too far away at the back, and Chris McDonald had to be alert to nip in and intercept Martin Kavanagh’s menacing cross.
Carlow created another goal chance on the half-hour, and this time Ross Smithers drilled his shot crisply to the bottom corner of the net from 20 metres to level the game.
McDonalds’s free sent the visitors in with a 1-7 to 0-9 lead, and they failed to capitalise on their utter dominance of the opening stages of the second half, Seamus Murphy kicking just wide with the goal at his mercy.
They did scramble home a 44th minute goal through Kevin McDonald, but Dooley hit back with a goal inside 30 seconds, finishing from close range after Joe Bergin had made the driving run.
Two Paddy Murphy points helped them open out a three point advantage heading into the final 15 minutes, but Carlow goalkeeper Brian Treacy kept his side in it with fine saves from Dooley and Jason Sampson.
Carlow lost two men to straight red cards in the final five minutes, the influential Diarmuid Byrne followed to the line by substitute Hugh Paddy O’Byrne.
They also had goalkeeper Dempsey red-carded by referee James McGrath after the final whistle.
Offaly: J Dempsey, P Rigney, D Shortt, C McDonald, D Mooney, S Gardiner, D King, P Camon, S Cleary, S Kinsella, J Bergin (0-02, 1f), C Kelly, P Murphy (0-02), S Dooley (1-10, 6f, 1 ’65, 1 s/l), K Connolly (0-01).
Subs: J Mulrooney (0-02) for Kelly, P Guinan for Cleary, J Sampson for Connolly
Carlow: B Treacy, G Coady, M Ryan, A Corcoran, D Byrne (0-01), R Coady, J O’Hara, J Doyle (0-03), R Kelly, S Murphy (1-01), M Kavanagh, K McDonald (0-02, 1f), JM Nolan (0-01), S Murphy (0-01), R Smithers (1-00).
Subs: D Murphy (0-02, 1f) for McDonald, HP O’Byrne for Nolan, C Lawlor for Kelly
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).