OFFALY blew a glorious opportunity of qualifying for the Allianz NHL Division 1B final on Sunday at O’Connor Park, Tullamore as they succumbed to 14-man Clare by the minimum margin.
One has to go back to 2000 for Offaly’s last win in league or championship over the ‘Banner’ and this was a particularly galling loss as they enjoyed numerical superiority for over 62 minutes and they’d chances aplenty to put the issue beyond doubt, before Cathal Chaplin’s 68th minute goal was the blow that effectively broke the camel’s back.
And just to rub it in further, it was Wolfe Tones Aaron Cunningham, son of current Offaly coach Alan, who landed the decisive 70th minute winning point that preserved Clare’s 100% record in the division and sets them up for a final clash with Limerick (the side they beat by 2-24 to 1-13 on the opening evening of the campaign).
The reward for the winners is a Division 1A spot for 2013 and an NHL semi-final clash with reigning All-Ireland champions Kilkenny who annihilated Galway in devastating fashion at Nowlan Park. Cork and Tipperary complete the semi-final line-up.
See this Tuesday’s Offaly Express for full report and photographic coverage of the game. On sale now