Offaly ease past Louth in Championship opener

Offaly 1-15 Louth 1-6

Offaly 1-15 Louth 1-6

The Championship got off to a less than spectacular start at Pairc Tailteann in Navan, where Offaly easily overcame Louth's limited challenge to set up a Leinster clash with Laois.

Louth didn't have the necessary quality to pose a serious challenge to a wasteful Faithful side which shot an alarming tally of 17 wides.

It was Offaly's first win in mainstream Championship action in four years, but new boss Kevin Kilmurray knows that he must bring more out of his under-achieving side.

For Louth, it's back to the all too familiar territory of the Qualifiers, and manager Val Andrews must find a way to lift morale as he awaits the identity of his first round opponents.

Niall McNamee clipped over Offaly's opening two points from close range, and in a crowded midfield area it was the Faithful's Alan McNamee who was picking up the lion's share of possession in the opening stages.

The dubious advantage of a difficult, swirling wind did Offaly few favours, and was a contributory factor to a substantial proportion of their huge first half tally of 11 wides.

Louth scored just twice in the opening 20 minutes, but thanks the difficulties being experienced by Kevin Kilmurray's side in hitting the target, and to the efforts of excellent wing backs Conor Sheridan and Simon Gerard, they were just a point adrift.

And the sides were level by the 26th minute when centre back Aston Hoey thumped over a long range score and Darren Clarke hit the equaliser.

Offaly had puffed and panted for half an hour, but all that changed when John Reynolds got in for a 30th minute goal.

Alan McNamee broke away on the right, his fisted pass inside wasn't his best of the afternoon, but Reynolds dived to connect and deflect the ball past Shane McCoy, who had committed himself to collect on the edge of the square.

Ciaran McManus finally began to find the range, and two massive free kicks, one of them from 50 metres, sailed between the posts.

Offaly, for all their profligacy, held a 1-6 to 0-3 interval lead, and while Rooney and Clarke narrowed the gap early in the second half, Louth went a fill 20 minutes without scoring.

The Offaly finishing improved marginally, with Niall McNamee and James Coughlan shooting some excellent points, and by the 60th minute they led by 1-12 to 0-5, with the Louth supporters already streaming through the exit gates.

Louth, to their credit, never capitulated, and pulled back a a goal two minutes before the end, when Paddy Keenan blasted home after a Clarke free had smashed against the crossbar.

And they could have had a second when John Kermath's diagonal shot somehow eluded a mass of players and zipped just wide at the far post.

Offaly lost defender Cahal Daly, sent off on a second yellow card in the dying moments, but victory was theirs in comfortable, if not convincing fashion.

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