THE biggest issue to be sorted out on the last weekend of group games in the Tullamore Court Hotel was in Group 1 where Tullamore, Tubber and Ferbane were locked in a three way battle with one team set to make the quarter-finals and one ending up in the dreaded relegation play-off.
All three sides were in action on Sunday evening with Tullamore and Tubber going head to head and when the finals whistles went in Doon and O’Connor Park it was Ferbane who made th knock-out stages, Tubber who finished bottom of the group while Tullamore’s season came to, what for them would be regarded as a premature finish.
Ferbane crept into the top four by virtue of a 1-5 to 0-3 win over Erin Rovers in what was the lowest scoring game of the campaign. Their reward is a quarter-final against Gracefield who topped Group 2 after a win over Walsh Island.
Second place in Group 2 went to St Rynagh’s who mounted a last gasp comeback to earn a draw against Clara. Last year’s Intermediate Champions now face Edenderry in the last eight after Peter Brady’s charges lost out late to Rhode.
Despite their defeat at the hands of Ferbane, Erin Rovers still finished second in Group 1 and their reward is a quarter-final clash with last year’s beaten finalists Clara. Erin Rovers will not want to be reminded that the last time the sides met in the knock-out stages, they failed to score in the opening half as Clara romped to victory.
The final quarter-final pits Rhode, the only team with a 100% record, against Walsh Island in what many observers had thought could be a potential final match-up.
While those eight teams focus on the next round and Tullamore and Ballycumber hang up their boots for another year, Tubber and Shamrocks will battle it out in the relegation play-off with the loser destined to drop to the Intermediate ranks.
This is the first season that Tubber have failed to reach the quarter-finals since their promotion in 2006 while Shamrocks are just a year removed from making the semi-final and having made three finals since 2000.
This year however they have suffered a raft of transfers, injuries and retirements and based on their form to date, it is difficult to see this giant of recent times in Offaly football staving off relegation to the second tier.
See this week’s Offaly Express for full reports on all six games plus the Legal Handpass with all the stats from the Championship plus the Team of the Round.