With the sides level going into added time, Offaly were not far off beating Kilkenny for the first time in 20 years, but it was not to be as a late TJ Reid free and a sealer from Walter Walsh pulled the win out of the bag for the Cats.
But manager Kevin Martin, who was part of that side in 1998, was understandably in good spirits after the defeat.
“We’d hope to think we are going in the right direction,” the Offaly man told The42.ie.
“I suppose Galway and Limerick beat us well enough in the league – but we were trying out different players and stuff. We are trying to get a settled team and we are going in the right direction.”
Offaly’s league campaign got off to a flier when they beat Dublin on the opening night by 13 points, but normal service supposedly resumed as they shipped losses to Limerick, Galway and later to Antrim on home soil.
But on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, after Sunday’s fixture was affected by the downfall of snow, Offaly proved not to be so soft in the rescheduled event.
Kilkenny needed 0-17 from Walsh and Reid to thwart the Faithful County, as Offaly found scores from all of their front six attackers including eight from Shane Dooley.
“We are not going to jump ahead of ourselves. There is still a lot of hurling left, a lot of stuff to be done, a lot of work to be done on the field, a lot coaching to be done. A few things have to be changed to tweak lads’ games, and that will make a good bit of difference as well so we are happy with where we are.”
Offaly now begin preparation for the marathon Leinster Championship campaign, which they begin at home to Galway on the 13th May. It will take a mighty effort to reverse the league result, but Martin’s troops are certainly moving in the right direction.