Offaly in ‘big battle’ for survival

SHANE Dooley received ten stitches following the ear injury he sustained during the closing stages of Sunday’s NHL clash against Dublin in O’Connor Park.

SHANE Dooley received ten stitches following the ear injury he sustained during the closing stages of Sunday’s NHL clash against Dublin in O’Connor Park.

The 2010 All Star nominee was forced to go off injured in the 64th minute following a penalty award incident where Dublin corner back Peter Kelly was shown a yellow card by Galway referee Alan Kelly. With Offaly trailing 1-12 to 2-21, Joe Bergin’s penalty strike was subsequently saved by Dubs ‘keeper Gary Maguire.

Offaly manager Joe Dooley wasn’t happy following the incident involving his son who was immediately transferred to the neighbouring Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore for treatment. “Shane is gone to the hospital. He has a bad injury. He has a badly cut ear. So I don’t know how bad it is,” explained 1985, ’94 & ’98 All-Ireland medal winner Dooley Snr.

He added, “Where the officials were looking at the time that happened...? But anyway these things happen I suppose and we’ll have to get on with it.”

Ironically, it was the same referee that dismissed Shane, who was playing with UL, during the previous weekend’s Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final.

And when asked by reporters if the yellow card shown to the Dublin defender didn’t fit the crime, Joe responded, “These things happen I suppose but there is no ball lying on a fella’s ear, I don’t think when it is dropping down.”

Earlier in the game, Offaly had corner back Brian Mulrooney dismissed in the 22nd minute with a straight red card after he became entangled with a Dublin player on the ground. This decision didn’t please the Offaly manager either.

“The sending off in the first half had a big bearing. Young Mulrooney is only 19 years of age, it is his first year in with us and I don’t think he was ever sent off in his life and it probably ruined the game as a contest. Dublin had the extra man and that killed us all day. They were way sharper and faster than we were,” reflected Joe.

Offaly, following three losses (1-20 to 1-15 v Cork & 1-10 to 1-24 v Galway), have another extremely tough assignment this Sunday when they face All-Ireland champions Tipperary, now managed by Declan Ryan, in Nenagh.

“It is important game in Nenagh,” Joe concurred and he added, “We’ve two more important games here two weeks after that against Wexford and Waterford. They are all important games at this stage. So we’ll just have to pick up the pieces and get back into the training field because we have a lot of work to do. We are in a big battle to stay in Division 1. We knew that at the start of the year. It is probably between our-selves and Wexford now at the minute. Dublin are well out of the relegation zone at this stage so they are in the happy position of knowing that.”

The manager, now in his 4th season at the helm, added, “We don’t like to lose at any time. I was disappointed with the margin but once we got to grips with the game in the second half we held our own.”

On the issue of absentees, Joe remarked, “We are a short a few players alright, Paul Cleary, James Rigney, Derek Molloy, Joe Brady and Brendan Murphy but we had fifteen men on the field. We’d the same number as Dublin had, for fifteen or twenty minutes any way! We were probably missing key men down the middle of our team and it is hard to fill those positions.”

He revealed that Ger Healion, who hobbled off injured in the 48th minute, should ‘be okay’ to face Tipp and he is also hopeful that David Kenny will be available.

“David will hopefully be back. He was working abroad and he is back working in Ireland from this week on and it will be a big help to us.”

Indeed, with three possible full back options ruled out – Kenny, Cleary & Rigney – Offaly seriously experimented and handed the number three role to Derek ‘Del’ Morkan and it was a big ask against former Tipp player Ryan Dwyer who was on fire, grabbing 2-2 before he was replaced.

Of the starting XV in the official programme, just three of the ‘Faithful’ players were in the positions they were listed in – goalkeeper James Dempsey, mid-fielder Conor Mahon and left half forward Colin Egan.

Dylan Hayden and James Mulrooney, occupied the centre back and centre forward roles respectively, adding to a scarcely recognisable spine to the side. Although it was surprising that management didn’t trust these roles to Rory Hanniffy and Joe Bergin who’ve past experience in them.