“The sending off was a huge blow, the conditions were tough out there today and we had 14 men for 52 minutes,” reflected manager Tom McGlinchey afterwards.
“The red card was what it was, the people that were looking at it will make their own assessment, but we were very disappointed with it.”
After conceding three of the first four scores in the opening quarter, Aherne appeared to react to a heavy tackle and on the advice of the linesmen, Seán Joy saw fit to brandish a second yellow to the Stradbally player.
Waterford initially responded in the best possible fashion and Michael Curry gave their chances a real shot in the arm when he got a touch to Michael O’Halloran’s dropping ball to score the game’s only goal 10 minutes before half time.
Paul Whyte added a free to make it 1-3 to 0-5 at the interval, however they could only muster up a solitary score from Patrick Hurney in the second half as Offaly’s hard running and intense tackling sapped the energy of the 14 men and gradually wore down their resistance.
“I’m proud of the way the lads played, they were under the cosh for 52 minutes with a man down, competed well up until 45 minutes on the clock and just unfortunately fell away late on,” was McGlinchey’s summary, before he went on to stress that his team will still feel that they have every chance of securing promotion, even after succumbing to their first defeat of 2015.
Offaly manager Pat Flanagan kept Rhode players Anton Sullivan and Niall McNamee in reserve but sprung them early in the second half and while Sullivan had an afternoon to forget, picking up a black card less than 15 minutes after his introduction, Niall McNamee wasted no time in stamping his class on the game, kicking two glorious points to put the home side on the front foot.
Four points in the space of five minutes midway through the second half gave Offaly a comfortable lead that they retained until the end, but afterwards Flanagan felt that his side still weren’t operating to their full potential.
“To be totally honest it was a little disappointing. We’re still not playing to the level that we’re training, we’re a lot better than we’re performing right now. The movement is not there and we’re playing with a sense of fear, I feel.
“I don’t want to refer back to times past but I think it’s a knock-on effect of previous endeavours that didn’t work out. We need to get the lads to a mental state of going for games and playing with the ability they have, and not being curtailed in their efforts.”
Scorers for Offaly: N Dunne 0-3 (1f), D Hogan, W Mulhall (1f) & N McNamee 0-2 each, J O’Connor, R Allen, B Allen & G Guilfoyle 0-1 each.
Scorers for Waterford: M Curry 1-0, S Aherne (f), M O’Halloran, P Whyte (f) & P Hurney 0-1 each.
OFFALY: A Mulhall; D Brady, P McConway, J O’Connor; C Donohue, J Moloney, D Hogan; G Guilfoyle, R Allen; K Mullally, P Sullivan, N Bracken; B Allen, N Dunne, W Mulhall.
Subs: E Rigney for J O’Connor (35 — B/C), N McNamee for Mulhall (40 — B/C), A Sullivan for Bracken (43), N Geraghty for Mullally (56), C McNamee for A Sullivan (57 — B/C), J Ledwith for Brady (64).
WATERFORD: S Enright; D Crowley, R Ó’Ceallaigh, T O’Gorman; T Ó’hUallacháin, M O’Gorman, C Phelan; S Aherne, T Prendergast; G Nugent, P Hurney, M Curry; M O’Halloran, J Veale, M Ferncombe.
Subs: P Whyte for Veale (22), O Keevers for M O’Gorman (34 — temp), Keevers for Curry (46), N Walsh for Whyte (59), JJ Hutchinson for Ferncombe (61), J Curry for Nugent (65)
Referee: Sean Joy (Kerry).