Farragher free earns Galway share of spoils

GER FARRAGHER’S injury-time free, controversially awarded to team captain Alan Kerins after he attempted to barge his way past several defenders, saved Galway from what would have been an embarrassing defeat in yesterday’s Allianz NHL game in Tullamore.

Offaly manager Joe Dooley was relieved to see his young team bounce back after a late collapse in Semple Stadium last week: “It was a very satisfying day, even though we probably could have won,” he commented.

“We lost our shape a bit in the first half but after half time the players decided to have a real go and it worked out very well for us. It was a great bonus after what happened against Tipperary.”

Ger Loughnane spoke to his players in the dressing room for about 10 minutes after the game. He claimed they were discussing their schedule for the next few weeks before they take on Tipperary on March 9.

Overall, he was looking on the positives, saying that in spite of hitting 16 wides, ‘there was no loss of heart’.

“You could say that we were lucky to draw, but we were unlucky that we did not win by 10 points in another way,” he stated. “I was delighted with the heart they showed and the way we were able to stand up to the physicality of Offaly.”

Offaly made a bright opening to the game, taking the lead after a mere 10 seconds through former Galway minor Francis Kerrigan, who was one of several players to make an early impression (another being Galway full-back Tony Óg Regan. Twice scores were level before Brian Carroll went through for the first of the home side’s goals and, combined with the fact that Galway started to waste good scoring opportunities, they only fell behind for the first time in the 21st minute. That coincided with the first of only two Offaly wides in the half, a fact which indicated their lack of scoring power over the 15-minute period before the break.

Conversely, Galway went on a bit of a scoring spree, hitting five points without reply. That resulted from an increasing dominance at half-back where John Lee settled down to dominate after a lively start by Ger Oakley, more competitiveness at midfield (through Kevin Hynes) and better finishing. Offaly had no luck until Carroll pointed a 35th minute free to see them trail 1-3 to 0-11 when the interval whistle sounded.

Measured against the way they struggled to make openings earlier, Offaly’s forward play was to improve dramatically in the third quarter. What the manager got from his players was a supreme effort which drew a predictable response from home supporters and, helped by a number of positional changes, they stormed back to be only two points behind after 12 minutes. And, just after Hynes put over Galway’s third score of the half, Offaly came near to putting the ball in the net — when substitute Daniel Currams shot from close range and ‘keeper James Skehill brought off a fine save.

Continuing to force the pace, they won a close-in free immediately afterwards. David Franks tried for a goal but Tony Óg Regan stopped the ball on his chest. Franks, now at midfield, was to the forefront, along with substitutes Currams and Ger Healion and all over the field there were players rising to the challenge.

Finally, their efforts were rewarded when these two players goaled in quick succession (with wing-back David Kenny having a hand in both scores) to open up a two-point lead with just over a quarter of an hour remaining. It set the scene for an exciting finish in which Farragher’s accuracy again proved invaluable to Galway; first hitting over a free and then scoring from play. But from the clearance Franks was rewarded with a score which regained the lead for Offaly — and which looked likely to earn them an unexpected win until Farragher came up trumps with his easy 40-yard free.

* Dickie Murphy handled the game with typical coolness, always in command and keeping mistakes to a minimum.

Scorers: Offaly: B. Carroll 1-3 (0-2 frees); D. Franks 1-2; G. Healion 1-0; F. Kerrigan, G. Oakley, J. Rigney and D. Currams 0-1 each. Galway: G. Farragher 0-10; (0-5 frees, 0-1 sideline, 0-1 ‘65); D. Forde and K. Wade 0-2 each; A. Cullinane, A. Callanan, A. Kerins and K. Hynes 0-1 each.

OFFALY: S. O’Connor; K. Grogan, K. Brady (capt), C. Hernon; D. Horan, J. Bergin, D. Kenny; B. Leonard, J. Rigney; D. Franks, G. Oakley, C. Mahon; B. Carroll, D. Molloy, F. Kerrigan.

Subs: G. Healion for Kerrigan; D. Currams for Oakley (injured 39); S. Dooley for Mahon (68).

GALWAY: J. Skehill; D. Joyce, T. Og Regan, C. Dervan; A. Keary, J. Lee, G. Mahon, A. Cullinane, K. Hynes; A. Kerins (capt), D. Forde, A. Callanan, G. Farragher, I. Tannian, K. Wade.

Subs: F. Healy for Callanan; F. Coone for Tannian (52).

Referee: D. Murphy (Wexford).

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