Four years after they won the Division 4 title, ironically with a win over Tipperary, Offaly returned to the bottom tier of league football with a whimper after losing to the same opponents in the archaic surrounding of Clonmel last Sunday.
This time last year Offaly were within a kick of a ball of gaining promotion to Division 2 which shows the stark reality of just how far they have fallen in 12 months.
Despite hitting ten wides and spurning three goal chances against the wind in the first-half, Offaly only trailed by 0-4 to 0-2 at the break and they should have been well able to push on and win the game from that position with the elements in their favour..
Unfortunately for Offaly, they made little inroads into the massed ranks of the Tipperary defence in the second-half. Despite news filtering through of Antrim’s goal spree against Cavan which put Offaly’s destiny back in their own hands, Gerry Cooney’s men looked utterly bereft of confidence, self belief and attacking ideas as the game slowly trickled through their fingers and their relegation fate was sealed.
Time and again in the second-half, Offaly overplayed the ball and were reluctant to shoot. Even in the closing minutes when they should have been going all out for the win, all too often there were only one or two players in an advanced attacking position which made life easy for the numerous Tipperary defenders dropping back to cover.
The home side were able to attack on the break and they picked off seven second half points to secure the win although they go down along with Offaly as their fate was sealed before the game.
Only one Offaly forward scored from play over the 70 minutes and that was Michael Brazil with what proved to be the final score of the game two minutes from time. Brazil along with John Moloney and Brian Connor were Offaly’s best performers on the day along with Alan Mulhall who chipped in with a point from a ‘45 while also keeping a clean sheet.
On the day Brian Connor carried Offaly’s greatest attacking threat kicking four points from play and in the second-half at times he looked like the only player in green, white and gold who was willing to shoot.
As has been the case throughout the league, there were numerous changes to the Offaly panel due to injuries and players withdrawing from the panel which weakened the match day squad considerably. While the Tipperary subs accounted for five of their second half points, Offaly’s bench didn’t make an impact and that is a direct product of the large number of players unavailable for a variety of reasons.
There will undoubtedly be recriminations over players opting out of the panel and others not being selected by the management but between now and the June 17 showdown with Kildare, which at present is looking like a train wreck waiting to happen, every effort has to be made behind the scenes by whichever individuals necessary to get a full strength Offaly panel together. Players will get back to their clubs to play in the Senior Football Championship and that might give everyone a fresh perspective ahead of a summer that is hopefully more memorable than a league campaign that just needs to be confined quickly to the annals of history.
There is no question that the players that pulled on the Offaly jersey on Sunday gave their all and do so in terms of time and commitment they give to training and it is to their credit that they have stuck with it despite the problems on and off the field since the start of the year.
For all the utter disappointment that Offaly ultimately felt on Sunday, this was a game they could quite easily have won.
In the opening ten minutes against the wind they had three goal chances but unfortunately they all went a begging.
By the time Offaly opened their account through Brian Connor after 21 minutes, Offaly had already hit eight wides, hit the post once and dropped another three shots into the goalkeepers hands.
Defensively Offaly were playing well as they had restricted Tipperary to just three points and the home side only added one more before the break with Barry Grogan hitting his fourth of the half after a great save from Alan Mulhall.
A point from a free from Bernard Allen put Offaly within two at the break and they looked to be in position to push on and win the game with the wind in the second-half.
They did get back within one after just 14 seconds thanks to another point from man of the match Brian Connor but points from Bernard O’Brien and Donagh Leary put Tipperary three points in front.
Entering the final 15 minutes Tipperary lead 0-8 to 0-5 with Brian Connor and Bernard Allen hitting Offaly’s points.
With Antrim romping to victory over Cavan, it was still all to play for Offaly but the much needed boost of adrenalin failed to materialise and three of the next four points came for Tipperary with Brian Connor firing over the lone response for Offaly.
That left five points between the sides inside the last ten minutes and while goalkeeper Alan Mulhall knocked over a ‘45 and Michael Brazil kicked a fine point from play, Offaly never created a clear goal scoring opportunity and time eventually ran out in the game and on their stay in Division 3.
Tipperary: Barry Grogan 0-5 (0-3f); Bernard O’Brien 0-3 (0-2f); Donagh Leary 0-1; Alan Moloney 0-1
Offaly: Brian Connor 0-4; Bernard Allen 0-2f; Michael Brazil 0-1; Alan Mulhall 0-1 ‘45
Tipperary: 9 (4 1st half)
Offaly: 13 (10 1st half)
Tipperary: Paddy Codd, Ciaran McDonald, Hugh Coghlan, Michael Quinlivan
Offaly: Brian Darby, Derek Kelly, Graham Guilfoyle
Tipperary: Paul Fitzgerald; Robbie Kiely, Paddy Codd, Andrew Morrisey; Alan Campbell, Robbie Costigan, Ciaran McDonald; George Hannigan, Hugh Coghlan; Donagh Heffernan, Peter Acheson, Aldo Matassa; Michael Quinlivan, Conor Sweeney, Barry Grogan. Subs: Donagh Leary for Aldo Matassa (HT), Bernard O’Brien for Conor Sweeney (HT), Alan Moloney for Donagh Heffernan (53mins)
Offaly: Alan Mulhall; Johnny Moloney, Eoin Rigney, James Gallagher; Paul McConway, Brian Darby, Derek Kelly; Brian Connor, Alan McNamee; Michael Brazil, Aidan Kennaghan, Graham Guilfoyle; Bernard Allen, Nigel Dunne, Anton Sullivan. Subs: Niall Darby for Graham Guilfoyle (50mins), James Coughlan for Anton Sullivan (60mins)
Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)