When the qualifier draw is made this morning, it will be Offaly — the only remaining county in today’s draw that will play their league football outside the top two divisions next spring — that will be seen as the plum draw for most of the other seven.
Manager John Maughan agreed after their win over Sligo yesterday that they’ve been greatly helped by a draw that saw them take on two struggling teams (London and Sligo) at home, but also said that he expects his players to step up to the challenge of superior opposition next weekend.
“I wouldn’t mind, a lot of people would, but I wouldn’t,” he replied, when asked about the possibility of a clash with his native Mayo. “I won’t say we are in bonus territory, but it would be lovely to get a home game against a high-quality team and I think that would bring out more in this Offaly team.
We have been lucky with the draw. That is not been disrespectful to London or Sligo, but we got two home games against Division Four teams and we recognise that.
“These lads are working extremely hard, making the same commitment as the Mayo boys, or any other team. They are disciplined and focused, they will grow from that performance.”
There was a lot to like about Offaly’s performance for long stretches of this game. They burst out of the blocks with two early goals — a route-one catch-and-kick from Niall McNamee and a wonderful team score finished by Shane Horan, ending the game with a total of 10 starting players on the scoresheet.
On the other side of the ledger, they failed to build on a strong first quarter and despite playing with the wind, they led by just 2-8 to 0-9 at half time, having once been eight points up. A stunning Paddy Dunican save from a Paddy O’Connor shot denied Sligo a goal of their own, but points from O’Connor, Niall Murphy and Pat Hughes seemed to set up a competitive second half.
Except it never materialised. Eoin Carroll set up Niall McNamee for a second goal to open the scoring after half time, and Offaly were home and hosed by the time Barry Gorman kicked Sligo’s next point in the 54th minute.
It’s been a desperately difficult year for Paul Taylor, losing every competitive match, but the Eastern Harps man insisted he’s keen to continue in his role.
I’ve said from the very start that this is a building process, it’s a completely new group. They’re very young and very eager, but they’ve had hard lessons this year.
“The hurlers started a building process five or six years ago, and we’ve seen the results on that now, that’s what’s needs to happen.”
N McNamee 2-2 (0-1f), B Allen 0-4 (0-1f), S Horan 1-1, P Dunican 0-3 (0-2f, 0-1 ’45), C Mangan 0-2, P Cunningham. E Carroll, A Sullivan, N Darby and D Dempsey 0-1 each.
N Murphy 0-4 (0-1f), S Carrabine (0-2f), P O’Connor, D Cummins and P Hughes 0-2 each, P Kilcoyne, D Quinn and B Gorman 0-1 each.
P Dunican; D Hogan, E Rigney, D Dempsey; C Donohoe, J Moloney, N Darby; E Carroll, P Cunningham; S Horan, A Sullivan, C Mangan; B Allen, N McNamee, R McNamee.
M Abbott for R McNamee (51), P McConway for Sullivan (63), J O’Connor for Mangan (64), S Tierney for N McNamee (69), C Horan for Hogan (70), N Bracken for Horan (70+2).
E Kilgallon; P McNamara, P Laffey, N Mullen; D Cummins, K Cawley, G O’Kelly Lynch; P Kilcoyne, A McIntyre; K McKenna, P O’Connor, M Gordon; S Carrabine, P Hughes, N Murphy.
N Ewing for McKenna (9, black card), D Quinn for O’Connor (30, temp), B Gorman for Gordon (48), JF Carr for O’Kelly Lynch (51), L Nicholson for McIntyre (57), Quinn for O’Connor (62), B McGowan for Carrabine (70+2).
Brendan Cawley (Kildare)