NOT for the first time, recall his last-gasp pressure strikes against Antrim and Galway in the 2010 Leinster Championship, Shane Dooley displayed incredible bottle and nerves of steel to accurately dispatch two mammoth injury time frees that sent wasteful Wexford packing during a tension filled NHL Division 1 survival battle in O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Sunday.
Dooley, recovered from the ear injury that confined him to the sideline for the previous round joust with reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary, racked up a highly impressive 1-10 personal haul and when he stood over the second last free, Offaly hadn’t scored for 23 minutes. With the sides tied at 2-13 to 1-16, and with Offaly down to 14 men, there was scarcely a scent of danger when Wexford’s Harry Kehoe was penalised in the 71st minute for over-carrying on the 45m line in Offaly’s half.
However, Dooley, bubbling with confidence, strode back to assume the mantle of responsibility and he delivered a magnificent radar-like strike edge his side in front.
It was an incredible score, worthy of winning any confrontation and he repeated the oracle moments later, beautifully curling over a free glued to the sideline 65m out, won by bustling and industrious mid-fielder Conor Mahon.
Two sublime top-drawer scores and there was time for no more as Offaly celebrated a crucial victory in their quest to avoid top flight relegation.
Indeed, even if Offaly fail to pick up any further league points and because of the head-to-head rule, the only way Wexford can survive and overtake them is by garnering at least three points from their remaining fixtures against Cork (home) and Tipperary (away). That isn’t likely to happen but one never knows. Offaly’s last two outings are at home to Waterford this Sunday – a fixture they can now look forward to with a degree of optimism - and away to Brian Cody’s Kilkenny on April 17.
After trailing by as many as three in the first-half, Offaly rallied to lead 1-10 to 0-11 at the break. There was little to separate the sides throughout the second half until Dooley’s late points sealed a priceless win.
(See this week’s Offaly Express for full report)