DESPITE the fact that there will be two games still to play after this weekend’s action in the Allianz Hurling League, this Sunday’s clash between Offaly and Wexford in O’Connor Park amounts to a relegation decider for both teams.
Both sides have lost their four games to date and with score differences of -45 and -37 respectively, they are unlikely to catch any of the other teams making this effectively a win or bust game.
Whoever loses would need to win their last two games to have even a slim chance of avoiding the drop as the result between two teams locked on the same points is the first factor in deciding final places. Given that Offaly’s last two games are against Waterford and Kilkenny, this clash with Wexford is effectively their last chance saloon.
They will be boosted by the return of Shane Dooley and the Tullamore marksman seems to be making a timely return to form as last weekend he scored 2-13 for his club in the league. Offaly have struggled with their free taking thus far but if Dooley has found his range, Offaly should be able to amass very competitive total.
At the back however they will be without Brian Mulrooney whose four week ban following his straight red card against Dublin was upheld. Selector Brendan Kelly will also be watching from the stands as he picked up his own four week ban following an exchange with the referee in the Dublin game.
The last time these two sides met in the league was the 2009 Division 2 Final in Thurles where Offaly, captained that day by the now retired Ger Oakley, came out on top. Later that year the sides met in the championship in Wexford Park and the home side came out on top on that occasion. After a heavy 21 point defeat in their opening game away to Galway, Wexford had shown signs of improvement with a two point defeat to Waterford and a five point reversal against Kilkenny before losing by nine away to Dublin in their last outing.
Both teams will be targeting this as a game they feel they will be very capable of winning. Offaly showed signs of improvement against Tipperary last time out before fading in the closing minutes. They can afford no such slip this Sunday as a defeat will see them fall through the trapdoor back to the depths of Division 2.