LATE goals from Sean Pender and Brian Connor proved crucial as Offaly secured a critical win over Carlow in O’Connor Park on Saturday afternoon.
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The win keeps Offaly’s promotion hopes on track but there were some very nervous moments for Emmet McDonnell’s side against a Carlow team who managed to get their noses in front late in the game despite being second best for much of the 70 minutes.
Carlow did strike back with a well taken late with a goal from John Murphy to keep the home supporters on the edge of their seats but the final whistle came with Offaly still three points ahead and still in the promotion hunt.
Offaly made a strong start to the game but despite having the upper hand for much of the opening 35 minutes, they were just ahead by two at the break. Two early points after the restart put them four ahead and put a truer reflection on the scoreline however the game was far from over.
Carlow lead by the excellent Brendan Murphy outscored Offaly by seven points to two in the next 20 minutes to take the lead for the first time at 0-11 to 0-10 entering the closing stages.
With the game in the balance, Offaly were awarded a controversial free in midfield when Carlow were on the attack and from the resulting phase of play, centre-back Sean Pender stole forward to fist a dropping ball into the back of the net.
Ken Casey added a point to put Offaly three clear and the second goal followed soon after when Graham Guilfoyle opened up the Carlow defence with a trademark long run and he timed his pass to Brian Connor to perfection with the full-forward making no mistake with his finish.
Carlow pulled one goal back through John Murphy but Offaly held on for a hard fought but deserved win
Offaly: Joe Maher 0-5 (0-3f), Sean Pender 1-0, Brian Connor 1-0, Willie Mulhall 0-2, Alan Mulhall 0-1f, Ken Casey 0-1, Niall McNamee 0-1, Brian Darby 0-1
Carlow: John Murphy 1-0, Darag Foley 0-3 (0-2f), Brendan Murphy 0-3, Brian Murphy 0-3f, Eoghan Ruth 0-1, Paul Reid 0-1
Offaly: Alan Mulhall; Brian Darby, Paul McConway, Shane Sullivan; Eoin Carroll, Sean Pender, Eoin Rigney; Michael Brazil, Alan McNamee; Graham Guilfoyle, Richie Dalton, Willie Mulhall; Joe Maher, Brian Connor, Ruairi Allen. Subs: Niall McNamee for Joe Maher (52mins), Ross Brady for Ruairi Allen (54mins), Ken Casey for Willie Mulhall (59 mins), Niall Dabry for Graham Guilfoyle (68 mins).
Carlow: Trevor O’Reilly; Conor Lawler, Shane Mernagh, Benny Kavanagh; Kieran Nolan, Shane Redmond, Martin Doyle; Darragh Foley, John Murphy; Ray Walker, Paul Reid, Eoghan Ruth; Brian Murphy, Brendan Murphy, Willie Minchin. Subs.: Sean Gannon for W Minchin (58 mins), Alan Kelly for P Reid (69 mins), Ciaran Moran for E Ruth (69 mins), Keith Jackson for J Murphy (70 mins).Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)