TWENTY years ago, Offaly, the Leinster champions of 1988 to ’90 and first time NHL winners, were raging hot favourites to dispose of Dublin in the Leinster SHC semi-final at Croke Park, however, the form book was turned on its head with the Dubs winning by 0-19 to 1-14.
In 1991 Dublin, managed by Lar Foley, were relegated from Division 1 of the NHL after they failed to win a single game, while Offaly, who began the competition in Division 2, emerged to defeat Waterford (quarter-final), Tipperary (semi-final) and Wexford (final) and Danny Owens, current County Council Cathaoirleach, became the first and only Offaly man to be presented with the NHL trophy.
Two decades on the roles are reversed – Dublin are NHL champions and Offaly suffered relegation. So will there be an encore of what happened in ’91 – the relegated side overcoming the NHL winners?
Offaly All-Ireland minor medal winner Seamus Morkan came in a sub for Dublin in ’91 and grabbed a late point, ensuring his native county failed in their attempt to reach a 12th successive provincial final (Offaly contested every final from 1980 to ’90). Two Morkans are part of the Offaly squad for this Sunday – Derek ‘Del’ Morkan and the recently called up Mark Morkan.
Current Offaly manager Joe Dooley lined out at top of the left against Dublin in ’91. The Dubs led 0-10 to 0-8 at half time of a contest where the sides were level on ten separate occasions. SCORERS Dublin: MJ Ryan (0-5), Sean McDermott (0-4), Joey Morris (0-3), John Murphy (0-2), John Twomey, Brian McMahon, Sean Kearns, Martin Ryan & Seamus Morkan (0-1 each). Offaly: Johnny Dooley (1-7), Billy Dooley & Johnny Pilkington (0-2 each), Hubert Rigney, Brian Whelahan & Daithi Regan (0-1 each).
DUBLIN: Damien Byrne; Colm O’Giollain, Brian Kelleher, Tommy McKeon; Shay Boland, John Twomey, Shay Fleming; Sean Kearns, John Murphy; Joey Morris, MJ Ryan, Martin Ryan; Brian McMahon, Tony Costello, Sean McDermott. Subs.: Ruairi Boland for Costello, Seamus Morkan for Morris.
OFFALY: Jim Troy; Brian Hennessy, Shane McGuckin, Martin Hanamy; Hubert Rigney, Aidan Fogarty, Brian Whelahan; Johnny Pilkington, Joachim Kelly; Johnny Dooley, Daithi Regan, Danny Owens; Billy Dooley, Michael Duignan, Joe Dooley. Subs.: Roy Mannion for Fogarty, Declan Pilkington for Duignan, Adrian Cahill for Owens.
REFEREE: Dickie Murphy, Wexford.