Very Disappointing Defeat Puts Soul Searching On The Agenda For Offaly

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Very Disappointing Defeat Puts Soul Searching On The Agenda For Offaly thumbnailBernard Allen, Ofaly’s best performer on Sunday.

THERE was absolutely no hiding place for the Offaly senior football squad and management as they got their 2017 Allianz National Football League Division 3 campaign off to the worse possible start with a bitterly disappointing defeat in Pearse Park, Longford on Sunday last.

Longford ...1-12
Offaly ...0-10

Perspective is always required when talking about sport and Offaly did take to the field without three of their top performers, Niall McNamee, John Moloney and Anton Sullivan but facing up to harsh facts and stark reality is also important - and the bottom line is that this was an exceptionally poor performance by Offaly, one where very few positives emerged and they were well beaten by a Longford side who were also missing some players and who were no great shakes.

While a trip to Longford was always going to provide challenges, this was very much a missed opportunity for Offaly. A win would have set them up very nicely and it was there to be won but Offaly put in an especially bereft second half display and could have no complaints at the result.

The one shining light for Offaly was a superb individual display by Bernard Allen, who kicked seven of their ten points, three of them from play, won a lot of hard ball and displayed a great appetite for battle.

Apart from that, there was not much to grasp on for the visitors. Eoin Carroll and Jason Gettings were solid enough at midfield where Offaly held their own without ever establishing any great level of dominance, though the second half was a struggle, and Ken Garry made a couple of brilliant saves in goals in the first half. Peter Cunningtham was good on the ball, though with Niall McNamee out, playing him at centre half back rather than in attack seemed like a big mistake.

It is difficult to pinpoint what went wrong for Offaly. It is all too easy to come up with generalised assessments about the heart for battle and the game plan Offaly employed but there are some inescapable facts and the biggest one is that this was one very substandard display from a side who looked to have trained hard over the Winter but there was a real lack of leadership and match winners emerging when the need was at its most acute in the second half.

Behind by 0-7 to 0-6 after a first half in which Offaly were very competitive, even if they lived a charmed life at times, their second half display was shocking as they were outplayed and outfought by Longford and didn't get a score until 27 minutes into it - It is an indictment of Offaly's display that they scarcely looked like scoring in this spell.

That score, a lovely floated point from Bernard Allen, left Offaly trailing by 0-11 to 0-7 and still with an outside chance of salvaging something but in the blink of an eye, Longford put the game beyond reach with a free from Barry McKeon (Joe O'Connor received a very harsh straight red card for the foul) followed by a clinically taken goal from sub, Larry Moran.

Ofaly got the final three points in the last four minutes plus injury time but by that stage it didn't make one iota of difference and this was one very bad defeat for them.

They had struggled a bit at times in the first half but were still working hard and making life difficult for the home side. Longford led by 0-3 to 0-1 after seven minutes and Offaly had reason to be grateful to Ken Garry, given the nod ahead of the long established first choice, Alan Mulhall. The Rhode man made great saves to deny Sean McCormack and Liam Connerton goals as the Offaly defence was opened up.

Offaly got on top after this with points from Bernard Allen (two, one free) and Nigel Dunne (free) giving them a 0-4 to 0-3 lead after twenty minutes. Offaly were the better team at this stage and they led by 0-5 to 0-4 before Longford rallied with three points on the trot and then Allen's injury time free left the visitors trailing by that point at half time.

It is not too difficult to pinpoint why Offaly lost as their attacking display left a lot to be desired. Apart from Allen, the other starting forwards, Johnny Brickland, Michael Brazil, Graham Guilfoyle, William Mulhall and Nigel Dunne all struggled to varying degrees.

Brickland, Mulhall, Dunne and Guilfoyle were all replaced and while Shane Tierney did show some promise when introduced, it was a struggle for the Offaly attack. It was particularly disconcerting to observe the number of balls dropped into the goalkeeper's hands with Michael Brazil, Bernard Allen, Nigel Dunne and Graham Guilfoyle all guilty, along with others.

Offaly were especially sloppy in this regard during their spell of dominance in the first half and this meant that they didn't ask the really tough questions that they should have of Longford. There was the guts of a dozen balls dropped short of the target, many of them from very scoreable ranges and this was really inexcusable.

It was a tough and somewhat disjointed game with a lot of stoppages for injuries while Joe O'Connor received a very harsh red card five minutes from time after what seemed a fairly innocuous challenge on Liam Connerton and Eoin Carroll picked up a second yellow card deep in injury tiome and Longford had two black cards.


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