OFFALY passed a big examination of character to collect two crucial National Football League points against Limerick in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park this afternoon.
Allianz Football League Division 3 South - Round 2
It wasn't pretty at times and they certainly didn't graduate with honours but it was nonetheless a huge and important win for Offaly. They had to dig deep, work hard and display complete honesty for the win and it places them right in the promotion mix.
Having beaten Wicklow last Sunday, Offaly now have a home game against Tipperary next weekend. With two out of four teams in Division 3 South going into the semi-finals, Offaly are now in a very strong position – although there is a definite possibility of three teams finishing on four points in this division.
Offaly deserved the win here but it could have went badly wrong for them. They lived on their wits at times and they missed too many chances, especially in the first half, but Offaly were the better team over the 70 minutes plus. Their work rate was particularly praise worthy as they tackled very well and worked hard at closing opponents down. It meant that Limerick found it very hard to break Offaly down and in the second half, their shot selection let them down as they were forced into shooting from unlikely positions.
Offaly were in a decent position at half time when they went in level at 0-5 each having played into the wind. They really should have been ahead as Joe Maher missed a penalty and other chances went abegging.
A goal from Hugh Bourke early in the second half gave Limerick a 1-5 to 0-6 lead and it was always going to go down to the wire from here. Crucially, however, Ofaly had edged back in front, 0-11 to 1-7 by the second half water break and they got five of the closing eight points for the win.
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The Offaly management were quite ruthless, hauling off players as they tired or as they began to make mistakes. Three of their subs were instrumental in driving them across the line. Niall McNamee's and Cian Farrell's intervention was expected while the two points from Shane Horan were a real bonus. The Kilmacud Crokes man is a hard worker who links well between midfield and the full forward line but he kicked two fine points to help Offaly across the line in a hugely effective cameo role.
Farrell and McNamee weighed in with two each. Farrell's 67th minute was was pivotal as he lofted over a huge audacious shot from out on the left sideline to put Offaly 0-14 to 1-9 ahead and give them a sliver of breathing space. Josh Ryan's free cut it to the minimum and it looked like Limerick could salvage a point. Up stepped McNamee to drive Offaly over the finish line. The game had bypassed the veteran Rhode forward for a few minutes after he came on but he showed his class when he was needed. His 71st minute point after a great Cian Farrell break forward oozed quality and then he floated over a lovely 73rd minute point to put Offaly three clear. Ryan got a late free for Limerick but they didn't have another attack as Offaly held on.
It was the type of game Offaly have lost or blew in the past and they will be delighted with the win. It was far from a perfect performance and Offaly made a few mistakes. They weren't truly clinical as a unit but there was a heartwarming honesty to the way they went about their business.
Bernard Allen was man of the match, displaying great opportunism to kick five points from play. The vastly experienced Tubber forward will have been disappointed not to have to get at least one goal and he could do with being more clinical when these chances arise but he was absolutely crucial to Offaly's win. He showed very well and he showed a great ability to finish in tight spaces.
Elsewhere, Eoin Rigney, Johnny Moloney and Jordan Hayes were the stand out figures in defence. Eoin Carroll worked hard at midfield but the star player here was Peter Cunningham. It was the Bracknagh man's best performance in some time as he competed well for high ball, foraged very effectively for breaking ball and displayed great pace on and off the ball. He showed how good of a footballer he can be and him and Eoin Carroll are developing into a very solid midfield partnership.
Apart from Bernard Allen, Ruari McNamee was the pick of the starting forwards. It took him a while to get into the game but he showed his quality as it went on, displaying real vision on the ball and popping over two important points.
The first half was a strange sort of a one for Offaly. They played okay, were clearly up for the game and they worked very hard. However, they just weren't clinical enough and should have been well ahead at half time. Offaly were level, 0-5 each, at the break, and on the surface that was not a bad position as they had a stiff wind to come.
However, Offaly's first half display raised more questions than answers. They were good at closing down their opponents and they were strong in the tackle but they didn't fully convince when moving forward.
Offaly could have had three goals in the first half and certainly should have had two. The opening few minutes were all about Joe Maher. He kicked Offaly's opening point, then had a poor wide from play and was unlucky to see his well struck 11th minute penalty rebound off the post – Bernard Allen was pulled down while trying to get in on goals with Limerick full back Brian Fanning getting a black card.
Later on, Allen had a punch on goal blocked on the line, though Jordan Hayes probably should have taken on the shootig responsibility after making space for himself well. Moments later Eoin Carroll had a punch on goal blocked on the line by Limerick goalkeeper Donal O'Sullivan. Offaly also missed decent chances for points with Johnny Moloney, Peter Cunningham and Anton Sullivan all having poor wides.
Bernard Allen got three first half points from play for Ofaly who led by 0-3 to 0-1, 0-4 to 0-2 and 0-5 to 0-3 but didn't build on it and points from Robert Childs and Hugh Bourke sent Limerick in on level terms at the break.
A goal three minutes into the second half from Limerick corner forward Hugh Bourke changed the game and put them ahead 1-5 to 0-6. A real dogfight emerged after this. Offaly fought back onto level terms with points from Allen and sub Shane Horan. Danny Neville put Limerick back in front, Eoin Carroll equalised for Offaly and Bourke's free restored Limerick's lead. Points from Ruari McNamee and a fifth from Allen put Offaly in front at the water break, 0-11 to 1-7 – though Allen could have had a goal after a great move involving Peter Cunningham, David Dempsey and Anton Sullivan.
Offaly: Bernard Allen 0-5, Ruari McNamee, Shane Horan, Cian Farrell and Niall McNamee 0-2 each, Eoin Carroll, Joe Maher and Anton Sullivan 0-1 each.
Limerick: Hugh Bourke 1-4 (one mark and 2 frees), Josh Ryan 0-4 (4f), Robert Childs and Gordon Brown 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 – James Lalor (Raheen) for Hogan, inj. (23m), Shane Horan (Kilmacud Crokes) for Bill Carroll (Half time), Cian Farrell (Edenderry) for Maher (H/T), Niall McNamee (Rhode) for Sullivan (54m), Carl Stewart (Clara) for Dempsey (64m), Rory Egan (Edenderry) for Doyle (64m), Ciaran Donnelly (Bracknagh) for Rigney (64m),
Ian Duffy (Walsh Island),
, Ciaran Donnelly (Bracknagh), Carl Stewart (Clara), Colm Doyle (Clara), Rory Egan (Edenderry), Jack Bryant (Shamrocks), Joe Maher (Ferbane), Cian Farrell (Edenderry), Niall McNamee (Rhode), Aaron Leavy (Tullamore).
LIMERICK: Donal O'Sullivan; Sean O'Dea, Brian Fanning, Michael Donovan; Tony McCarthy, Robert Childs, Gordon Brown; Darragh Treacy, Tommie Childs; Cian Sheehan, Cillian Fahy, Iain Corbett; Brian Donovan, Danny Neville, Hugh Bourke. Subs - Subs – Paul Maher for McCarthy (Half time), Josh Ryan for Sheehan (H/T), Peter Nash for Donovan (54m), Luke Murphy for Brown (60m), Gerard Stack for Bourke (68m), Adrian Enright for Fahy (68m),
Referee – John Gilmartin.
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