If you truly get out of something what you put in then Offaly certainly didn’t deserve to be on the end of a 13 point defeat last Sunday against Kildare.
The players gave everything they had in O’Moore Park and they never stopped trying right up to the final whistle despite the incessant onslaught from wave after wave of Kildare attack
Offaly started strongly and lead by 0-3 to 0-1 after nine minutes and were more than matching Kildare in terms of physicality.
For the remaining 60 plus minutes however, Offaly only added another three points while Kildare picked off scores at will and could easily have won by considerably more had it not been for a brace of fine saves from Alan Mulhall and a string of wides.
There was no lack of effort and commitment from Offaly but the harsh reality is that Kildare are streets ahead in terms of strength, conditioning and preparation and it showed as the game went on. Their performance level never dropped while Offaly struggled in the sunshine in Portlaoise.
A quartet of key Offaly players came into the game with limited preparation time over the last few weeks due to injuries and while they were puffing hard by the end of the game, they all came through the 70 minutes and that will stand to them in the weeks ahead.
This Kildare team has been a number of years and countless euro in the making and it showed as each and every player looked like an integral part of a finely tuned and well balanced machine.
In contrast Tom Coffey only took over an Offaly team in utter turmoil eight weeks ago and in truth the management team faced an impossible task in trying to prepare a team to face one of the top four sides in the country in the opening game.
However the draw for the qualifiers has been relatively kind and Offaly will travel to play Tipperary on June 30.
The sides met in the last game in the league where a defeat for an Offaly team bereft of confidence saw them relegated.
Not only will the game provide Tom Coffey’s side a chance to build some momentum, it will also give them the chance to exorcise the memory of that defeat to Tipperary which doomed them to Division 4 football in 2013.
Kildare meanwhile will turn their attention to the Leinster semi-final where they will square off against Meath. Meath manager Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney was in O’Moore Park last Sunday and he was given plenty to think about ahead of that game.
Kildare’s most influential line was their half-back line and their willingness to get up to support the forwards created overlaps and space that was exploited time and again. Wing-back Ollie Lyons was the second highest scorer from play with only veteran Johnny Doyle kicking more.
With Offaly packing the midfield, the Kildare full-back line was not overly tested with goalkeeper Shane Connolly’s only contribution being to kick the ball out 10 times after six Offaly scores and four Offaly wides.
Three of those Offaly scores came inside the first nine minutes as the underdogs made a determined start to proceedings.
Anton Sullivan opened the scoring with a superb right footed effort after just 50 seconds and that was followed in the fifth minute by an equally impressive left footed effort from Niall Smith that dropped nicely over the bar.
Midfielder Padraig O’Neill opened Kildare’s account after five minutes with a point but with nine minutes on the clock, Ken Casey pointed at the end of a flowing Offaly move with Sean Pender raiding from the back to play the final pass.
That, as they say, was as good as it got for Offaly who didn’t add to their total for the next half-hour of the game. In fact Offaly didn’t create a scoring opportunity in that time as Kildare gradually took control kicking eight consecutive points to draw clear.
Two frees from Mikey Conway started the run on a day when frees were much easier to come by for the men in white.
Veteran Johnny Doyle kicked Kildare’s second point from play after 20 minutes and after another free from Conway and one from play from former St Mary’s Edenderry player Eoghan O’Flaherty, Doyle added his second to leave Kildare 0-7 to 0-4 clear after 29 minutes.
It could have been worse for Offaly but Emmet Bolton clattered the crossbar with the goal at his mercy while James Kavanagh fisted over the bar in injury-time when a more ruthless player would have taken the chance to go for goal.
After the break Offaly matched Kildare in the opening exchanges with both sides adding two points with Alan McNamee and Ken Casey cancelling out points from Robert Kelly and Ollie Lyons.
Sean Pender almost found the back of the net for Offalyin this period but the defender’s powerfully struck shot just went right of the post rattling the side netting rather than the back of the net.
However as the half progressed, Kildare again took control and steadily built their lead. Twice Alan Mulhall came to the rescue with stunning saves after Kildare players were put through but he could do nothing to stop the points going over the bar with Mikey Conway (2), Eoghan O’Flaherty, Johnny Doyle (2), Alan Smith and Ollie Lyons all finding the target as seven unanswered points put Kildare 0-17 to 0-5 ahead.
Ken Casey briefly stopped the rot with Offaly’s sixth and final point on the hour mark but as the game petered out and the fans streamed for the exits, Padraig Fogarty and Ollie Lyons added points for Kildare to round off the win and put the Lilywhites through to the Leinster semi-final.
Offaly: Ken Casey 0-3 (0-1f), Anton Sullivan 0-1, Alan McNamee 0-1, Niall Smith 0-1
Kildare: Mikey Conway 0-5 (0-4f, 0-1 ‘45), John Doyle 0-4, Ollie Lyons 0-3, Eoghan O’Flaherty 0-2, Padraig O’Neill 0-1, James Kavanagh 0-1, Alan Smith 0-1, Robert Kelly 0-1, Padraig Fogarty 0-1
Offaly: 4 (1 1st half)
Kildare: 13 (7 1st half)
Offaly: 2 (Ross Brady, Alan McNamee)
Kildare: 1 (Robert Kelly)
Offaly: Alan Mulhall; Johnny Moloney, Shane Sullivan, Sean Pender; Eoin Rigney, Michael Brazil, Brian Darby; Alan McNamee, Ross Brady; Richie Dalton, Anton Sullivan, Derek Kelly; Ken Casey, Graham Guilfoyle, Niall Smith. Subs: Niall McNamee for Derek Kelly (34mins), Peter Cunningham for Graham Guilfoyle (45mins), David Hanlon for Johnny Moloney (56mins), Nigel Dunne for Ken Casey (64mins), Lorcan Hiney for Eoin Rigney (68mins)
Kildare: Shane Connolly; Ollie Lyons, Michael Foley, Peter Kelly; Emmet Bolton, Morgan O’Flaherty, Hugh McGrillen; Robert Kelly, Padraig O’Neill; John Doyle, Eoghan O’Flaherty, Eoin Doyle; James Kavanagh, Tomas O’Connor, Mikey Conway. Subs: Alan Smith for Eoin Doyle (41mins), Daryl Flynn for Robert Kelly (54mins), Padraig Fogarty for James Kavanagh (57mins), Dermot Earley for John Doyle (58mins), Robert Eyres for Morgan O’Flaherty (61mins)
Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)
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