By Kevin Egan
New Offaly manager Eamonn Kelly got off to a perfect start this afternoon when his Faithful County charges easily accounted for DIT at O’Connor Park in Tullamore, James Mulrooney’s hat-trick helping them to a 4-28 to 0-10 win over the visiting students.
Kelly went with a comparatively strong starting 15 for his first competitive fixture at the helm of the midland county and he was rewarded as Shane Dooley (0-10, 0-5f), Colin Egan (0-2) and Seán Ryan (0-2) all fared well.
He’ll also have been greatly encouraged by the performance of full back Chris McDonald and centre back Conor Doughan, who held Wexford dangermen Conor McDonald and Jack Guiney to a single point each from play over the course of the contest.
DIT were moderately competitive in the opening stages but Offaly soon pulled away, led by the accuracy of Dooley, and a goal for Seán Cleary helped them to a 2-12 to 0-5 interval lead.
The students again rallied at the start of the second half, but their challenge soon fizzled out as Mulrooney racked up two more goals to complete his tally of 3-4 for the afternoon, while substitute Stephen Quirke (0-4) also made a strong case for inclusion in their next outing against All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in a fortnight’s time.
Carlow also enjoyed a winning start this afternoon as Pat English’s side recorded a 0-19 to 1-13 win over Meath at Páirc Tailteann in Navan, despite fielding a weakened side featuring four debutants.
Westmeath narrowly came through an engaging battle with DCU, prevailing by 2-20 to 2-17 on the astroturf surface at St Loman’s GAA grounds in Mullingar.
Dublin’s Seán Gray notched a goal after 25 minutes to pull DCU level but the home side rallied brilliantly in the lead up to half time to lead by five, 0-13 to 1-5.
A goal for Warren Casserly kept them in control of the tie but DCU kept picking off the scores and the Lake County needed a late Niall Dowdall goal to secure their victory.
Laois and Antrim also played out their season openers on artificial turf and while Seamus Plunkett’s side came away with the 3-17 to 1-19 victory at the end of 70 entertaining minutes at Heywood Community School yesterday, an understrength Saffron side will feel very positive about their efforts in advance of their trip to Parnell Park to meet Dublin next Sunday.
Eight of the 15 starters for the Ulster county were from Belfast clubs while Liam Watson also made his first start since 2012, giving manager PJ O’Mullan some interesting options ahead of the busy Spring season.
Tadhg Dowling and PJ Scully led the way for Laois with first half goals while Ryan Mullaney was hugely impressive in a sweeping role for the home side, but a fine strike from Conor Johnston at the start of the second half opened the door for an Antrim comeback as it reduced the gap to a single point.
The introduction of Paddy Purcell off the bench proved crucial for Laois however as he moved into full forward and picked off two fine solo scores and also made a decisive pass to set up Ben Conroy for the O’Moore men’s third goal.
Wexford were the other winners this weekend as they overcame IT Carlow by 2-17 to 1-13 at Bunclody yesterday, their goals coming from Cathal Dunbar and Shane Tomkins.
Matthew O’Hanlon was sent off for Wexford, who face a trip to Navan for their second outing in seven days’ time, while IT Carlow have a must-win local derby against Carlow next on their schedule.