Sports

Offaly U-21 Footballers Close In On Leinster Final

Thursday, 16 March 2017

FOLLOWING on from a dogged and hard fought win over Wexford in the quarter final, the Offaly U-21 footballers are back in action tonight (Wednesday 15th) as they travel to Dr Cullen Park in Carlow to take on near neighbours Laois in the Leinster U-21 football championship semi final at 7.30p.m.

That opening round game win over Wexford was played in horrendous weather conditions in Gracefield and it was almost impossible to judge players on their performance.

What you could judge them on was their application and attitude. Level 0-2 each at half time and preparing to play against the strong wind in the second half, Offaly knuckled down and took control of the game with a Jordan Hayes goal three minutes after the restart setting them on their way.

Joint manager Jimmy Stewart was happy with the way his side ground it out while admitting the goal was a crucial score.

'The conditions took from the game and made it a battle but the lads fought hard and put the graft in to earn the victory. At half time, we were conscious of the misses we had in the first half but instead of thinking we would rue them, we knew we were making the chances and if we could take them, we would have a good chance of winning the game.

'It was a great score for Jordan to get. He had missed a few frees before that but he always finds them positions for scores. It gave us a great platform.'

Weather also played it's part in Laois progressing to the semi final as they awaited the winners of Louth and Wicklow in the quarter final. That game ran a week late due to weather meaning that Louth, who got the better of Wicklow, faced off against the O'Moore's only last Wednesday meaning two championship games in seven days for the Laois men.

They were impressive in that win but they will be missing midfielder David Connolly who picked up a straight red card in that win over Louth. Sean Moore is their scorer in chief and Offaly will have to be on the look out for the Laois danger man.

'They will be confident having put Louth away with a good display. They will have to be confident and a lot of their lads are training with the seniors', explained Stewart.

Offaly have their own fire power that have the potential to thrive. Shane Tierney, Patrick Dunican and Ruairi McNamee all have big scoring threats while Jordan Hayes is a midfielder well able to take a score.

The defence was excellent against Wexford anchored by David Dempsey and Carl Stewart in what was an all round resolute rather than impressive display.

On the injury front, their has been a bad dose of flu in the camp with David Dempsey and Carl Stewart to undergo fitness tests on Wednesday ahead of the game.

Stewart is confident that captain Ruairi McNamee can shake off a quad injury while Ferbane's Kyle Higgins will also now be an option having sat out a couple of weeks due to concussion.

The prize for the victor is a Leinster final date with either Dublin or Longford who face off next Wednesday and Jimmy Stewart admits it would be a massive shot in the arm for all involved on the back of the seniors getting beaten by 30 points in Armagh 10 days ago.

'It is important for Offaly football (to get to a Leinster final). That was a disaster in Armagh. None of us went up there with the intention of that happening. We are looking to put a smile on people's faces again. If the lads go out and perform with honesty and work rate, we have a good chance of getting the result.'

The Offaly team in full for their clash with Laois tonight is as follows;

1 Barry Rohan (Shannonbridge); 2 Clint Horan (Clodiagh Gaels), 3 David Dempsey (Ballycommon), 4 Colm Doyle (Clara); 5 Adam Mahon (Edenderry), 6 Carl Stewart (Clara), 7 P.J. Daly (Cappincur); 8 James Lalor (Raheen), 9 Jordan Hayes (Edenderry); 10 Ciaran Farrell (Edenderry), 11 Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks), 12 Jack Walsh (Gracefield); 13 Ronan McEvoy (Shannonbridge), 14 Ruairi McNamee (Rhode, captain), 15 Shane Tierney (Daingean).

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