By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Offaly 0-17 London 1-7
Just minutes after Offaly had lost to Westmeath a fortnight ago in Mullingar, manager Pat Flanagan noted that playing London would be tricky because of the expectation.
Record a one-sided win, and they would get no credit. Struggle to win, or worse lose, and they would be criticised.
As it happened, it was somewhere in between, as Offaly weathered an early London storm before going on a golden run of 13 consecutive points to put the tie to bed.
In fact the Exiles were kept scoreless for 40 minutes as they saw a five-point lead become an eight-point deficit.
Offaly were unable to get the goal that would probably have opened the floodgates though and as both sides made a number of late substitutions, the game fizzled out, allowing London to stem the tide and leave O’Connor Park on the back of a creditable performance.
Pat Flanagan would certainly have endured some anxious moments, particularly in the opening half as he watched his side record three early wides, although two points from the classy Niall McNamee points gave them the lead after they had fallen behind to a point from Patrick O’Hara.
London had a strong wind in their favour though and they responded with a goal and three points to go five ahead.
O’Hara fisted the goal after a shot and the posts dropped short and Adrian Moyles, Liam Gavaghan and O’Hara again stretched the visitors clear.
Offaly responded to the threat though kicking five points in a row and eight more in the second half to put the game to bed.
Dunne slotted the last two of the opening period to send the teams in level on 0-7 to 1-4.
Offaly wrested control of the central zone but spurned a couple of really good goal opportunities.
Dunne, McNamee, Brian Allen and substitute Nigel Bracken all raised white flags, while Dunne kicked four points in a row after that as the midlanders moved eight clear before London finally stopped the rot thanks to Eoin Mageean, within seconds after the Tír Chonaill Gaels man’s introduction.
With an increase of energy provided by that score and some substitutions, the men managed by former Wexford forward Ciaran Deely managed to reduce the margin to five via a Scott Conroy free and a cracking score by Dualtach Molloy.
Offaly finished with scores from Allen and Niall Darby to calm the nerves though and they will be glad just to have gotten this behind the as they await their round 2B opponents.
Scorers for Offaly: N Dunne 0-7(fs); N McNamee 0-4; B Allen 0-3(2fs); N Darby, A Sullivan, N Bracken 0-1 each
Scorers for London: P O’Hara 1-2; A Moyles, L Gavaghan, S Conroy (f), D Molloy 0-1 each
OFFALY: A Mulhall, B Darby, E Rigney, S Pender, N Darby, P Cunningham, J O’Connor, E Carroll, G Guilfoyle, A Sullivan, N McNamee, M Brazil, B Allen, N Dunne, J Moloney
Subs: N Bracken for Moloney (45), J Gethings for Guilfoyle (52), W Mulhall for McNamee (58), J Lalor for B Darby (62), K Garry for A Mulhall (64), L Fox for Carroll (66)
LONDON: G McEvoy, P Butler, C Carty, C Dunne, D Ryan, C Healy, D McGreevy, J Moran, L Gavaghan, A Moyles, M Gottsche, C Coyne, S Conroy, C Óg Greene, P O’Hara.
Subs: E Murray for Moran (48), K Butler for Coyne (51), E Mageean for Greene (63), C O’Neill for Ryan (64), D Molloy for O’Hara (66)
REFEREE: D Coldrick (Meath)