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Big weekend ahead with double header as Moloney steps away from football panel

Thursday, 22 February 2018

THIS Sunday sees the Offaly hurlers and footballers both in action in Tullamore with the hurlers taking on Laois in Division 1B of the hurling league at 12.30pm and the footballers squaring up to Armagh at 2.30pm in Division 3 of the football league.

With both coming into the game on the back of a few defeats, a bumper crowd and a couple of wins would be massive for all involved as they leagues come down to crunch time.

The footballers are searching for their first win of the campaign and they face an Armagh side who beat them by 30 points in last year's league. They did show some guile in Derry last week as they battled back from being 1-6 to 0-0 down to make a real game of it in the end up in Celtic Park.

They will be taking on Armagh without the services of Johnny Moloney who stepped away from the panel yesterday (Tuesday). Maloney had been a central player under the management of Pat Flanagan in recent years but having come back from injury last month, he hasn't seen much game time.

Speaking to the Tribune on Tuesday, Offaly manager Stephen Wallace confirmed Moloney's departure.

"We had a good chat, he had a couple of issues and I gave him some time to see where he is at and that the door was always open but something happened in the last hour or so (early Tuesday afternoon) where you can take it as confirmed that Johnny Maloney won't be joining the panel for the forseeable.

"That's not to say he won't come back at some stage. He is a good lad and a damn fine footballer. He has had a bad run with injuries and he broke his finger training with us over Christmas, he had a sickness. Maybe going back to John Rouse and playing a bit of football with Tullamore might reinvigorate him. He has a big future ahead of him in the Offaly jersey."

With games with Sligo at home and Wexford away to come, the game with Armagh would seem to yield less chance of picking up points as those other two games but Stephen Wallace and his management ticket will be hoping for a response from his players, especially at home in O'Connor Park and after battling back from being 1-6 to 0-0 behind to Derry to make a real game of it last weekend.

"You would have to be proud of them. They stuck at their task. Any time you go 1-6 to 0-0 down, you are fighting an uphill battle. The reality of that is we had eight shots at the Derry goals during that period and they came up and had eight at our goals and scored seven of them. It wasn't that they destroyed us, it was that they were just so clinical in that period.

"Armagh are the top team in the Division and they are the team everyone will have to beat if they want to get promoted. It is a big ask but we will be having a go, they are a long time together under Kieran McGeeney. A performance is the main thing and sometimes results can look after themselves", explained Wallace.

Kevin Martin and his hurling charges will kick off the double header at 12.30pm with Laois coming to town and this is a real must win game. The home games with Laois and Antrim were surely earmarked as must win games at the start of the year.

The win over Dublin in the opening round was a real shot in the arm but having had players sent off in the second half of their games with Limerick and Galway, results there were never an option when numerically at a disadvantage.

Laois will come on the back of a win over Antrim and confident of turning Offaly over. The pressure is on Offaly and a couple of wins to finish out the campaign would be a needed and welcome boost to the panel.

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