AN excellent first half display laid a powerful foundation as Offaly got the start they needed with a crucial win over Wicklow in Aughrim today.
Allianz National Football League Division 3 South
Offaly were superb for much of the first half. Playing with great intensity and terrific pace, they carried the game to Wicklow and left them chasing shadows. Offaly led by 1-9 to 1-3 at half time and that proved to be a sufficient cushion to get the job done.
Offaly weren't as good in the second half. They didn't play with the same pace and they didn't attack with the same hunger. The reasons for this may have been twofold. Tiredness was probably a factor and there is no doubt that Offaly's all action first half display took a lot out of them. Old habits may also have resurfaced as Offaly became a bit too cautious when they were in control. They were more nervous on the ball, took the safer option and stopped doing what had worked so well for them in the first half.
Offaly, however, remained very honest in everything they did and five second half points was enough for them to win with a degree of comfort.
It would have been an easier win only for the concession of a soft first half goal to Wicklow.Johnny Moloney gave a sloppy passs when driving upfield in the eight minute, Wicklow powered through a centre that was left wide open in his absence and Eoin Darcy finished powerfully to the net.
That gave Wicklow a 1-0 to 0-1 lead but Offaly's response was extremely impressive. They grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in all sectors. The pace they displayed on the ball was great to see as they constantly broke the tackle and sped forward but their application off the ball was equally as important. Time and time again, they forced the Wicklow player in possession to turn back, they turned over a lot of ball or forced errors and they made the home side look a very pedestrian and mediocre outfit.
Wicklow led by 1-1 to 0-2 after ten minutes but Offaly ran riot after this. Playing some great stuf, they got seven points on the trot to take control. There were some lovely points from Jordan Hayes, Anton Sullivan, Joe Maher and Bernard Allen before Offaly lost their way a bit coming up to the break. Two Wicklow points brought the gap back to three but an injury time Colm Doyle goal gave Offaly that 1-9 to 1-3 half time lead. Doyle finished well after a great build up involving Joe Maher, Ruari McNamee, Eoin Carroll and Bill Carroll.
Offaly struggled a bit in the second half. An Andy Maher point cut the gap for Wicklow before wing forward Conor Byrne was sin binned for a black card. Offaly didn't take advantage and didn't go for the jugular the way they should have with the extra man. They only got one point while he was off, a crucial mark from Bill Carroll and then Offaly found black card trouble when Cian Farrell went, just moments after coming on
It was 1-11 to 1-5 with thirteen minutes left. Three points in a row brought the deficit back to three and Offaly had reason to be worried. Howver, subs Shane Horan and Cian Farrell got vital points and that gave Offaly the cushion to get home.
It was a decent start by Offaly and sets them up well for the campaign. Their work ethic and hunger was of a sufficiently high level and Offaly moved the ball very well. Overall, they looked good and they have something very solid to build on.
There were plenty of fine individual performances. Declan Hogan, Eoin Rigney and Niall Darby were in great form on the full back line while Eoin Carroll was brilliant at midfield. Carroll was especially influential in the first half, making some great catches, putting in the hard yards and making the big hits – Offaly needed a big game from the Cappincur man as his partner Peter Cunningham was a bit off the boil, only playing well in fits and starts. Carroll shaded man of the match but had a close contender in David Dempsey who was a revelation in a new role at centre half forward. The Ballycommon man did what Offaly wanted as he won dirty ball and drove at pace. He was very composed in possession and while he didn't pose a scoring threat, he was there as a link man and he fulfilled this role to perfection.
Anton Sullivan, Bernard Allen, Joe Maher, making his long awaited return to action, and Ruari McNamee all had good moments in the Offaly attack and Bill Carroll deserves special mention. A younger brother of Eoin, Carroll was making his debut and the pace of the game was a bit much for him in the first half. However, he stuck with it and ended up having a really good second half. He tracked back well, worked hard, used the ball simply and he showed great composure and bravery to win and convert a crucial mark. And as expected, Niall McNamee and Cian Farrell did not exactly weaken things when they came in.
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Offaly: Joe Maher 0-3 (2f), Colm Doyle 1-0, Bernard Allen and Niall McNamee (1f) 0-2 each, Paddy Dunican (“45”), Jordan Hayes, Anton Sullivan, Bill Carroll (mark), Ruari McNamee, Cian Farrell and Shane Horan 0-1 each.
Wicklow: Eoin Darcy 1-1 (1f), Dean Healy 0-3, Mark Jackson 0-2 (2f), Andy Maher, Mark Kenny, Conor Byrne and Padraig O'Toole 0-1 each
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 – Niall McNamee (Rhode) for Maher (49m), Cian Donohue (St Brigid's) for Doyle (51m), Cian Farrell (Edenderry) for Allen (52m), Shane Horan (Kilmacud Crokes) for Sullivan (58m), Carl Stewart (Clara) for Dempsey (71m), Rory Egan (Edenderry) for Hayes (71m).
WICKLOW: Mark Jackson; Nicky Devereux, Jamie Snell, Oisin Manning; Darragh Fitzgerald, Niall Donnelly, Dave Devereux; Padraig O'Toole, Dean Healy; Andy Maher; Mark Kenny, Conor Byrne; Eoin Darcy, Seanie Furlong, Cathal McGee. Subs – Arran Murphy for McGee (27m), Patrick O'Connor for Murphy, inj. (38m), Ross O'Brien for Devereux (54m), JP Hurley for Fitzgerald (54m), James Sheerin for Darcy (58m), Eoin Murtagh for Snell (61m).
Referee – Seamus Mulhare (Laois).
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