St Rynagh's 0-16 Birr 1-12
St Rynagh's produced a remarkable comeback this afternoon in Tullamore to win back the Offaly SHC title for the first time since 2015, scoring nine of the last ten points of the game to pip Birr at the post in a thrilling encounter at Tullamore.
As was the case in the county semi-final when he came off the bench to score two crucial points in an 0-14 to 0-12 win over Belmont, it was substitute Stephen Quirke who was the match-winner for the Banagher club as he fired over four second half scores, including two in the last five minutes to draw the teams level going into stoppage time.
County footballer Joseph O’Connor gave St Rynagh’s their first lead of the game when the ball broke his way on the right-hand side of the attack and he duly split the posts, leaving Birr with three minutes to try and salvage a result.
Both Jimmy Irwin and Eoghan Cahill had long-range efforts that drifted wide of the target as they tried in vain to force a replay, while one final long delivery into the danger area was cleared by Ben Conneely, with the final whistle sounding as the county man carried the ball out past his own 20m line.
Defensive strength was considered the trump card of the two teams coming into the game and Birr certainly went into lockdown in the early stages, with their half-back line of Seán Ryan, Brian Watkins and Paul Cleary immediately taking a firm hold on matters.
Brendan Murphy and Craig Taylor fired over superb points to get them out to a quick start up front, before a blistering turn of pace from teenage corner forward Morgan Watkins sent him through on goal in the third minute.
Watkins’ initial shot was well-saved by Conor Clancy, but the rebound fell kindly for Eoghan Cahill to sweep it to the net and crown Birr’s fast start.
Eventually, St Rynagh’s settled into the game with Seán Dolan making some headway in the forward line, though he was the only player that gained any traction in the first 30 minutes at that end of the field, scoring two points from play.
In total, the Banagher club had just 0-04 on the board at the break, with Birr on 1-07.
Gary Kelly, Aaron Kenny and Dolan halved that gap with the first three points of the second half but Birr then came back into it with another surge, firing over four points on the trot to move 1-11 to 0-07 clear.
Glorious opportunities spurned by Aidan Treacy and Gary Kelly suggested it wasn’t to be St Rynagh’s day, but a point from Ronan Hughes in the 44th minute kicked off a comeback that very slowly came to the boil.
Diarmuid Horan, who played for Offaly a decade ago and then returned to the country earlier this year having spent most of his twenties abroad, shot two points after coming off the bench and helped create a number of breaks that led to Stephen Quirke scores, as it gradually became apparent that a dramatic finish was in store.
Birr retreated back into their own half and Ben Conneely led a St Rynagh's back line that cleared nearly every ball that came down their direction.
All that remained was for O’Connor to fire over the winning score to wrap up St Rynagh’s 18th Offaly senior hurling championship crown.
St Rynagh's: Conor Clancy; Stephen Wynne, Conor Hernon, Dermot Shortt; Matthew Moloney, Ben Conneely, Paul Quirke; Joseph O’Connor (0-01), Gary Kelly (0-01); Garry Conneely, Ronan Hughes (0-01), Ciarán Flannery; Seán Dolan (0-03), Aidan Treacy (0-03, 0-01 ’65, 0-01 free), Aaron Kenny (0-01, free).
Subs: Stephen Quirke (0-04) for Flannery (28), Diarmuid Horan (0-02) for G Conneely (HT), Luke O’Connor for Kenny (48), G Conneely for Kelly (58), Flannery for Horan (60+2).
Birr: Brian Mullins; Oisín Murphy, Dylan Watkins, Jimmy Irwin; Brian Watkins, Paul Cleary, Seán Ryan; Brendan Murphy (0-01), Stephen Lonergan; Colm Mulrooney (0-03), Dylan Hayden, Craig Taylor (0-01); Barry Harding, Morgan Watkins (0-01), Eoghan Cahill (1-05, 0-03 frees).
Subs: Paddy Mullins (0-01) for Harding (12), Michael Verney for Hayden (50), Dylan Quegan for Mullins (55), Eoin Pilkington for Watkins (59), Thomas Bolger for Lonergan (60+4)
Referee: Kieran Dooley