Despite fielding a starting team that featured just four of the 15 hurlers that started last year’s All-Ireland final defeat to Limerick, Galway cruised to victory this afternoon in Tullamore, comfortably controlling their Allianz League 1B battle with Offaly outside of a ten-minute spell at the start of the second half.
Cathal Mannion, Joe Canning, Davy Glennon and Aidan Harte were all left out of the side that Galway manager Micheál Donoghue named during the week, but the Tribesmen didn’t miss a step as a result and still took control of the game in the early stages, building on their dominance of the Offaly puckout.
They won the first four Offaly restarts and while they struggled to gain traction close to the Offaly goal, with Niall Houlihan and Ben Conneely both putting in strong performances, they drew fouls from slack Offaly tackling further out the field and Flynn was in immaculate form throughout the seventy minutes, racking up 13 points in total, eight by half time, all while registering just one wide late on.
James Skehill produced a brilliant reflex save to deny Kevin Connolly on the Offaly side’s first meaningful attack, though Joe Bergin pointed the resultant ’65, and when Colin Egan added the next score with 19 minutes gone, Offaly were just four points adrift and could have felt that they had weathered the storm.
They continued to struggle up front however with Egan (0-3) their only scorer in the first half, aside from that Bergin ’65. Galway too found the going tough closer to goal, but with Flynn piling on the points, they still held a comfortable lead and added to it in first half injury time when Conor Whelan kicked a loose ball to the net after dissecting the posts from out on the stand-side touchline.
1-12 to 0-4 ahead at half time, Offaly produced some of their best hurling of the year so far in the ten minutes after half time and cut the gap back to six points, with Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dunne, Sean Dolan and Bergin all on the scoresheet.
The nervousness on the Galway sideline was palpable and it spilled over as Michéal Donoghue took issue with the awarding of a point for a Colm Gath sideline cut that looked to have drifted wide, leading to Sean Stack sending the Galway manager up to the terrace.
It proved inconsequential however as Galway steadied the ship in the final quarter, aided by strong performances from Padraic and Cathal Mannion off the bench. Their full back line kept a tight grip on the game, even after Shane Dooley was introduced for the home side, and a late goal from Brian Concannon put real distance between the sides and piled the pressure on Offaly ahead of their trip to Carlow next Sunday.
Scorers for Galway: Jason Flynn 0-13 (0-8f, 0-4 ‘65s), Conor Whelan 1-2 (0-1f), Brian Concannon 1-1, Niall Burke, Davy Glennon, Seán Kilduff, Seán Loftus 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Joe Bergin 0-6 (0-5f, 0-1 ’65), Colin Egan 0-3, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dunne, Seán Dolan, Colm Gath (sideline), Paddy Murphy 0-1 each.
Galway: James Skehill; Sean Linnane, Paul Killeen, Darren Morrissey; Jack Fitzpatrick, Gearóid McInerney, John Hanbury; Seán Loftus, Seán Kilduff; Niall Burke, Conor Whelan, Jason Flynn; Ronan O’Meara, Brian Concannon, Kevin Cooney.
Subs: Davy Glennon for Burke (32), Padraic Mannion for Hanbury (51), Cathal Mannion for O’Meara (57), Ronan Burke for Fitzpatrick (59),
Offaly: Conor Clancy; Paddy Rigney, Niall Houlihan, Ben Conneely; Damien Egan, Pat Camon, Andy Flynn; Aidan Treacy, Mark Egan; Kevin Dunne, Colin Egan, Sean Dolan; Kevin Connolly, Joe Bergin, Colm Gath.
Subs: Shane Kinsella for Flynn (10), Paddy Murphy for Colin Egan (46), Shane Dooley for Gath (52), Eoghan Parlon for Mark Egan (62), David Nally for Dunne (70)
Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin)