Flanagan bemoans agenda against minnows

Kildare 1-15 Offaly 1-13

Flanagan bemoans agenda against minnows

Pat Flanagan spoke in measured tones and insisted he did not want to make a big issue of the referee.

But then he did.

What is more, the Offaly manager went further than to take issue with Conor Lane’s officiating. Flanagan bemoaned what he claimed was a commonplace absence of fair play for “so-called lower teams” from referees.

What occurred in O’Connor Park on Saturday afternoon was just another example of that, he felt.

“It was a serious opportunity,” said Flanagan. “We started well and we allowed them to come back into it. We fought to the bitter end but moral victories are no good. The boys tried their hearts out there and probably deserved a lot better than they got.

“To be totally honest, I’d like to have any analyst look at that game and see was there fair play because in the first half in particular, when we needed to be pushing and getting the scores on the board, I thought decisions went against us an awful lot. I’m not trying to make a big issue out of the referee but it definitely was a serious factor in the game.

“I thought a number of players had tackles when we were in the forward line and the ball was allowed to go ahead and as soon as they were touched up the far side they got the frees. That’s what happens when you’re the so-called lower team, you don’t get the breaks.

“I’ve witnessed it before. Unfortunately, that’s the GAA and unless somebody does something about it, that’s always gonna be the way.”

Lane was inconsistent in some of his decision-making but Offaly were awarded nine more frees than Kildare, although that in itself doesn’t mean that they should not have received even more.

Meanwhile, the Lilywhites might have felt entitled to be somewhat aggrieved by Gary White’s black card in the 27th minute, as Emmet Bolton seemed to be fouled by Peter Cunningham, in the seconds before White’s trip on the Offaly player.

Flanagan admitted things might have been different had Anton Sullivan found the Kildare net rather than blasting over from close range when his side had the upper hand in the first half.

The key moment, though, was probably in the 32nd minute when Willie Mulhall dropped a close-range free into Mark Donnellan’s arms from in front of the posts with Offaly leading by two points.

Kildare worked the ball up the field for a Niall Kelly point within seconds and that started a run of six consecutive scores that gave Jason Ryan’s men a 0-10 to 0-6 interval lead.

A 61st minute goal from top scorer Eoghan O’Flaherty gave them the breathing space to hold on, despite Cunningham’s brilliantly-taken goal at the other end late on.

Afterwards, Ryan alluded to the departure of squad members David Hyland and Darroch Mulhall from the squad, revealing that the Athy duo had informed him on Tuesday that they were going to America.

“A lot of things were thrown at the players this week” said Ryan. “It wasn’t just losing against Dublin (by 19 points). It was also the fact that they don’t have a number of their team-mates with them anymore.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge. That was always going to be difficult and it was going to hit us at some stage in the game whether it was at the start, coming in at half-time, or when Offaly would score a goal or the last 10 minutes; it was going to hit the group.

“Thankfully, I would say the 10 minutes before half-time, when we really dominated the Offaly kick-outs, that was the only difference between the two teams.

“The first 10 minutes, we were very cagey and concerned and worried. That’s no surprise. When you’ve lost a championship match, the next game, you’re always that bit… hesitant is the wrong word, but you’re not on top of the ground as much as you would when you’re going into your provincial championship games. It’s just that little bit different.

“Hopefully that will free us up and we’ll go into next weekend with another little bit of a spring in our step.”

Scorers for Kildare:

E O’Flaherty (1-7, 0-4fs); A Smith (0-3); E Bolton (0-2); C McNally, E Callaghan, N Kelly (0-1 each)

Subs for Kildare:

T Moolick for White BC (28), F Dowling for McNally (48), M Conway for Kelly (60), H Lynch for Dowling (68)

Scorers for Offaly:

P Cunningham (1-1); W Mulhall (0-4, 3 frees); A Sullivan, N Darby (frees) (0-2 each); C McNamee, N McNamee, N Dunne, B Allen 0-1 each

Subs for Offaly:

E Carroll for Smith inj (ht), B Allen (0-1) for Dunne (53), J Evans for N McNamee (56), J Ledwith for Mulhall (66), N Bracken for C McNamee (70+2)

Referee:

Conor Lane (Cork)

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