Offaly captain Dan Bourke lifts the James Nowlan Cup after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland U20 Championship final versus Tipperary at UPMC Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Offaly crowned All Ireland U20 champions

Offaly 2-20 Tipperary 2-14

Offaly hurling had its greatest day since 1998 as the county's venerated U20 team defeated Tipperary in the All-Ireland final at UPMC Nowlan Park, Kilkenny tonight (Saturday).

It's a richly deserved first ever All-Ireland U20 hurling championship for Offaly, with the majority of this group of players having won back-to-back Leinster U20 titles on top of a Leinster minor crown.

And the fact that it was neighbours Tipperary whom Offaly defeated in the final - having lost to the same opponents in such agonising fashion in the All-Ireland minor decider two years ago at the same venue - made the victory all the sweeter.

Having reached last year's All-Ireland final, losing out to a strong Cork outfit, Offaly went all the way this time.

Offaly captain Dan Bourke lifted the James Nowlan Cup afterwards, with the same player deservedly chosen as the official player of the match as part of TG4's coverage of the game.

Backed by massive support at the Kilkenny city venue, the ravenous hunger in the Offaly ranks was exemplified by the way the forwards pressured the Tipperary defence into mistakes. Such pressure yielded a free-in from which Adam Screeney opened the scoring and the same player doubled the lead with one of those magical scores from near the sideline that he has made his trademark.

And despite the blow of conceding an eighth-minute penalty goal, scored by Tipperary's Darragh McCarthy after a foul on Senan Butler, Offaly gradually got on top.

Many of the mini battles around the pitch were going Offaly's way and, by half-time, Leo O'Connor's charges had built a lead of 0-12 to 1-5. The likes of Colin Spain, Dan Bourke and Barry Egan were all prominent as Offaly attacked with intent.

Adam Screeney was unerring from placed balls during that opening half, continually punishing fouls by Tipp and rewarding teammates who ran at the opposing defence.

Screeney also came very close to finding the net, drawing a superb save from Tipperary goalie Eoin Horgan (25th minute).

As Tipperary would be backed by the wind in the second half, there was still plenty of work to do. But although Tipp did score the first two points of the second period, with Cathal English and McCarthy the scorers, a string of wides undermined their challenge. Indeed, the Munster champions registered ten wides in the second half alone.

Screeney scored Offaly's first point of the second half from a '65 to settle any anxiety that may have been developing among the hordes of Offaly fans. The loss of Ciarán Foley, arguably Tipp's best player in the first half, was a further blow to the side managed by Brendan Cummins.

When Tipp conceded a soft goal, the destination of the trophy almost looked decided. The lively Barry Egan caused trouble to the Tipp rearguard by getting on the end of Shane Rigney's delivery, getting a slight touch on the sliotar. In any case, the goal put Offaly 1-16 to 1-8 ahead.

However, Senan Butler responded with a goal within moments at the other end and it was game on again.

When Bourke capped an outstanding display with a 47th-minute goal, finding the net with aplomb having dispossessed a Tipp defender, it was almost celebration time in Kilkenny and indeed back in Offaly.

The introduction of Dan Ravenhill, returning from injury, in the closing minutes was a welcome sight for Offaly supporters, with the final score coming from defender Ruairí Kelly, putting the seal on a momentous victory.

In addition to a freetaking masterclass from Screeney (scorer of 12 points), the inspiring and classy play of Bourke (who contributed 1-3), the workrate of midfield duo Colin Spain and Cathal King, the tenacious defending from Offaly, with players like James Mahon, Ben Miller and Brecon Kavanagh to the fore, was also a crucial factor in the success.

"It's going to be one hell of a party in Tullamore tonight," said Offaly manager Leo O'Connor afterwards.

Scorers - Offaly: A Screeney 0-12 (8fs, 3 65s); D Bourke 1-3; B Egan 1-2; C King, C Spain, R Kelly 0-1 each. Tipperary: D McCarthy 1-5 (1-0pen, 0-4fs), S Butler 1-1; C Foley 0-3; O O’Donoghue 0-2; C Martin, C English, S O’Farrell 0-1 each.

Offaly: Liam Hoare; Ruairí Kelly, Ben Miller, James Mahon; Ter Guinan, Brecon Kavanagh, Donal Shirley; Colin Spain, Cathal King; Shane Rigney, Dan Bourke, Conor Doyle; Leigh Kavanagh, Barry Egan, Adam Screeney. Subs: Alex Kavanagh for Egan (49 mins), Eoin Burke for Doyle (54), Dan Ravenhill for L Kavanagh (60+2), Daniel Hand for Rigney (60+3).

Tipperary: Eoin Horgan; Podge O'Dwyer, Aaron O'Halloran, Chris O'Donnell; Jack Collins, Ben Currivan, Mason Cawley; Sam O'Farrell, Adam Daly; Cathal English, Conor Martin, Ciarán Foley; Darragh McCarthy, Oisín O'Donoghue, Senan Butler. Subs: Jack O’Callaghan for Cawley (49 mins), Joe Egan for Foley ((inj., 50), Sam Rowan for Daly (60).

Referee: Seán Stack (Dublin).