AFTER wins over Westmeath and Carlow, the Offaly U20 hurlers face a trip to Parnell Park tonight (Wednesday) as they take on Dublin in the quarter final of the Leinster U20 hurling championship.
Managed by Gary Cahill and Shane Hand, they have gone about their business well and dealt with the two challenges they have faced to date.
The Westmeath game was a one sided and comprehensive victory while they never looked like losing to Carlow last time out even if they did allow them an avenue back into the game late on.
To get a win over one of the big teams in Leinster is something that has eluded adult Offaly teams for some time.
The last time an Offaly U21 team (changed to U20 this year) beat Wexford, Kilkenny or Dublin was way back in 2008 when they beat Wexford and it is a step that Offaly hurling badly needs to happen.
There is a wide spread of talent from around the clubs. The Carlow game saw eight clubs represented in the starting 15.
David Nally captains the side from midfield and his partnership with Shinrone’s Cillian Sampson was impressive in that win over Carlow.
Despite being a minor last year, Cathal Kiely has made the step up to U20 seamlessly with his free taking and contribution from open play being impressive.
Both Brian Duignan and John Murphy looked sharp and hungry also while the defence have a solid look about it with Ross Ravenhill and Belmont’s Conor Butler likely to anchor it in the central positions.
Clodiagh Gaels Sean Beatty is a candidate to pick up the pick of the Dublin attack while Eamonn Cleary has made some fine saves in the goals to date.
Overall, this group have been impressive. David Nally, Conor Langton and Joey Keenaghan have all tasted senior experience in some form this year and the energy, passion and work rate on the field is something that is clear to be seen and something that has been instilled into them.
Dublin though is the acid test. Away from home and a step up in class. Everything will be that bit faster and harder. They will be better than Carlow and Westmeath and they contested a Minor final two years ago and only lost narrowly to Kilkenny so Offaly have it all to do.
Offaly will need to make the most of their opportunities. Anything over 10 wides and they are dwindling their chances while if goal chances are there to be taken, they really have to go for the juggler given that they will be in the shoes of the underdog.
The winner of tonight’s game will play Wexford in the Leinster semi final the following Wednesday and it would be a major step in the right direction if Offaly were to progress.