Offaly face crunch battle on Sunday as injury fears mount

Offaly Hurling

Offaly face a massive battle with Antrim on Sunday

It may not have been scheduled to work out this way but Sunday in O'Connor Park, Tullamore will see a win or bust game for Offaly as they look to make the final of the National Hurling league division 2A.

They take on Antrim who are riding high at the top of the table and it would take a mammoth Offaly victory to push the Saffrons out of the league final places.

 An Offaly win will leave Antrim, Offaly and Kerry all sitting joint top of the league but Offaly and Antrim have the better scoring difference and would advance if Offaly were to win.

A loss or a draw for Offaly and it will be an Antrim and Kerry league final.

The game was due to take place three weeks ago but inclement weather out pay to that and the game was moved to the end of the league and this Sunday.

If Offaly are to get over the line, they may have to do it without two of their most important players as both Ben Conneely and Oisin Kelly are on the injured list ahead of the game. Captain Conneely and ace marksman Kelly would be massive blows at both ends of the field.

They pair haven't been ruled out but are in a race to be for for the game.

Since that original game was cancelled, Offaly have had the chance to get their confidence back as they enjoyed big wins over both Mayo and Wicklow.

They scored 5-29 against Mayo and 4-29 last Sunday against Wicklow but they will have to mindful that they will be meeting mush stiffer opposition this Sunday against Antrim.

Antrim warmed up for the game by going down to Tralee last Sunday and beating Kerry which is something that Offaly failed to do back in Round two of the league.

Offaly and Antrim have already met this year in the final of the Kehoe cup with Offaly edging a tight encounter to claim the spoils.

Going on league form to date, Antrim would have to have the edge but the game will be in O'Cononr Park and that will stand in Offaly's favour.

The last time they met in O'Connor Park was in last year's Joe McDonagh cup with the Antrim men coming away victorious after a high scoring and niggly affair.

It's also the meeting of two former All Ireland winners on the sideline.

Offaly manager Michael Fennelly will be looking to out think his Antrim counterpart Darren Gleeson who won an All Ireland title with Tipperary back in 2010 and 2016.

In terms of preparation for the Christy Ring Cup, Offaly can't have asked for much more from the league than to have their fate in their own hands on the last game.

It may have happened by default but that was the hand that was dealt.

It is still a learning curve both for the players who are playing under a new management and indeed for Michael Fennelly who is cutting his teeth in management and still getting to know the players.

Eoghan Cahill has been their star turn in the league and his emergence as the number one freetaker will have a key impact on the year.

He played in goals for the last couple of years but the return of James Demspey from Inter County exile has allowed the management the freedom of getting a look at Cahill out the field.

A number of players have taken their chances in the league.

Belmont's Leon Fox and David Nally have both shown up well with Fox proving a handy tool in the arsenal with his long range score taking.

Peter and Thomas Geraghty have also done well so far while the management have given game time to over 30 players so far in the league.

Antrim is their acid test now. While the Christy Ring level looks to a level too low for Offaly given their wins over Mayo and Wicklow, time will tell if they are ready to move back to division one of the league

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