OFFALY’S quietly efficient progress through the All-Ireland qualifiers continued at home in Tullamore on Saturday yet they laboured before advancing past Waterford.
The victory did not require the hunger that Offaly displayed in fashioning an extra-time success over Clare in the previous round but this was another battle against Munster opponents for the Faithful men.
Offaly have found the championship landscape to be barren over the last few seasons but after two wins in succession, manager Tom Cribbin feels his team are developing.
“There was an awful lot of pressure on the team before the Clare game as we hadn’t won a championship match in three years. So it’s good now that we’ve got a couple of good results. They’re starting to believe in themselves a little bit more and they battled well. The draw has been kind to us and has allowed us to build up confidence. That’s crucial for us with a young team. The older guys provided great leadership as the game went on.
“I’m happy that we won but I’m not getting carried away.”
An improvement in the quality of their play is critical for Offaly ahead of next weekend’s round three clash, with the glaring issue of free-taking badly needing to be addressed. In their Leinster championship defeat against Meath, Offaly had some ghastly misses and on Saturday the malaise showed no signs of abating. Five different Offaly players attempted frees within scoring range and between them they fired seven wides, including a couple of shocking attempts within 20 yards.
“We did miss some easy frees and it is a problem,” admitted Cribbin. “There was one from 14 yards and another from 21 yards. That’s not good enough and it makes it hard for us. If you come down to our training, everyone’s stepping up to kick them and they’re all going over. They spend a half hour each night, three or four of them taking frees.
“I don’t know what it is but hopefully it will come right.”
In open play, Offaly were able to source scores and their cause was aided by the presence of the classy Niall McNamee.
Maurice O’Gorman did have a fine game on the Rhode dangerman but McNamee still managed to swerve over a couple of outstanding points. Youngsters Anton Sullivan and Graham Guilfoyle assisted McNamee in the scoring stakes while the experience of Ciarán McManus was vital in the second half.
For Waterford, a season that began with burgeoning optimism in the spring has concluded in the summer on a flat note, according to manager John Owens.
“It’s a very disappointed dressing room there. We can look back on the year later that we got promotion but it’s a long way back. It’s the last match of the year for us and it’s just a pity we couldn’t be involved in the draw (for the next phase). We were missing a few lads that we would’ve loved to have had. But you have to take the rough with the smooth and while we’re disappointed, Offaly were the better team.”
The loss of suspended duo Tony Grey and Tommy Prendergast dented Waterford’s aspirations. While their inside rearguard were sound and competent, the Déise struggled to gain a foothold in the middle third. Up front, the reliance on Gary Hurney for scores proved fatal. Hurney was superb at full-forward as he survived off limited possession and his input, along with a couple of neat scores by Conor McGrath, kept them in the hunt in the first half.
Offaly had nudged 0-9 to 0-6 in front at the end of a first half where the players on both sides struggled with the greasy conditions. Offaly never truly kicked ahead in the second half and the suspicion that a Waterford goal could alter the game always prevailed. Their best chance came in the 48th minute but a McGrath shot was diverted wide by a diving block by McManus. After that Offaly had the wherewithal to secure the spoils with McNamee and Sullivan supplying the late flurry of points that sealed matters.
Scorers for Offaly: N McNamee (0-5, two frees); C McManus (0-3, one ‘45, one free); G Guilfoyle, A Sullivan (0-2 each); R Brady (one free), K Casey, B Connor (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford: G Hurney (0-5, three frees); C McGrath (0-2); S Briggs, M Donnelly, P Hurney (0-1 each).
Subs for Offaly: P McConway for Slattery (inj) (22); J Reynolds for Guilfoyle (55); S Ryan for Coughlan (60); A McNamee for Casey (68).
Subs for Waterford: C Phelan for Connery (inj) (31); L Ó’Líonáin for W Hennessy (45); S Cunningham for P Hurney (54); J Hurney for N Hennessy (60); C O’Keeffe for McGrath (68).
Referee: A Mangan (Kerry).
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