Offaly senior football team announced for league opener against Wicklow

Dempsey named centre half forward as Maher returns and Carroll to make debut

David Dempsey, named at centre half forward for Offaly on Sunday.

THE Offaly senior football management have produced one big surprise in the team named to play Wicklow in Sunday's crunch National Football League Division 3 South opener in Augrhim on Sunday.

Ballycommon man, David Dempsey has been named at centre half forward and it will be interesting to see what role he is given. Dempsey has established himself in the Offaly defence since making his debut in the league against Longford in 2018. He has played mainly at corner back but has also featured at centre half back and played there in some of last year's league.

Dempsey missed the championship win over Carlow and narrow defeat by Kildare last year and it is possible that he is intended for a defensive role from the half forward line or going out to assist midfield. If he is given a conventional centre half forward role and asked to lead the attack, it will be new territory for Dempsey, who has displayed consistent improvement in the past couple of seasons.

The other big team news is a return for Joe Maher while Bill Carroll will make his debut. Maher has been named at full forward and it ends a five year exile. Maher last played in a leage win over Limerick in 2016, having made his debut in 2013. The Ferbane man was recalled to the panel this year after crossing swords with manager John Maughan. The Mayo man was not impressed when Maher turned down an invitation to join the panel in his first season in charge, citing study commitments. Maher made himself available last year but was not asked in and it looked like he would not feature under Maughan. However, his form for Ferbane was outststanding over the past couple of years, he was asked in this year and has quickly won his place.

Bill Carroll will make his debut at wing forward. Younger brother of midfielder, Eoin Carroll, Bill impressed for Offaly U-20 footballers last season. Carroll was added to the panel late last year after impressing for Cappincur in the club championship but didn't get into action. A physical footballer with a good engine, he has good prospects and is the only one of last year's U-20 squad selected. Two more, Rory Egan and Jack Bryant are on the subs bench,

Offaly have kept veteran attacker Niall McNamee in reserve. McNamee is available after dislocating a finger a coulple of weeks ago and is likely to see action at some stage. Another fine attacking player, Cian Farrell is also on the subs bench and in him and McNamee, Offaly have forwards who can turn the game if needed – it is possible that one of these could start in a late change. Jack Bryant is also an exciting attacking prospect.

Apart from that, the team has a familiar look. Eoin Rigney and Johnny Moloney will run the defence from full back and centre half back while Eoin Carrolll will partner Peter Cunningham at midfield. Anton Sullivan, Bernard Allen and Ruari McNamee will all be expected to get scores up front and Offaly have a very decent attack.

Raheen man James Lalor has returned to the panel after a three year absence and he increases Offaly's defensive options. Kilcormac/Killoughey's Cathal Donoghue, St Rynagh's Joey O'Connor and Ferbane's Cian Johnson are all out injured.

Sunday's game is a crucially important one for them. Offaly have home games against Limerick and Tipperary after this and with two teams qualifying for the semi-finals, they have a very good chance of progress. However, they simply have to get off to a winning start here. Wicklow came out of Division 4 last year, as did Limerick, and these are must win games for Offaly – they will be underdogs against Munster champions Tipperary, though they will have a chance on home turf.

It will be interesting to see what way Offaly do line out and the tactics they apply. Wicklow are always a difficult proposition in Aughrim but Offaly have the forwards to get the result they need.

OFFALY: Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks); Declan Hogan (Tullamore), Eoin Rigney (Rhode), Niall Darby (Rhode); Colm Doyle (Clara), Johnny Moloney (Tullamore), Jordan Hayes (Edenderry); Peter Cunningham (Bracknagh), Eoin Carroll (Cappincur); Bill Carroll (Cappincur), David Dempsey (Ballycommon), Anton Sullivan (Rhode); Bernard Allen (Tubber), Joe Maher (Ferbane), Ruari McNamee (Rhode). Subs – Ian Duffy (Walsh Island), James Lalor (Raheen), Ciaran Donnelly (Bracknagh), Carl Stewart (Clara), Cian Donohoe (St Brigid's), Rory Egan (Edenderry), Jack Bryant (Shamrocks), Aaron Leavy (Tullamore), Cian Farrell (Edenderry), Niall McNamee (Rhode), Shane Horan (Kilmacud Crokes),

* The match will be streamed live for €5 and can be accessed through this link:

https://www.gaago.ie/fixture/PL5-21-F-W2Q

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