Sports

Heroic comeback secures O'Byrne Cup semi-final derby showdown for Offaly

Thursday, 11 January 2018

OFFALY have hit the ground running under new manager, Stephen Wallace and next Sunday, they will face into their first real big test when they travel to Mullingar to take on neighbours Westmeath in the O'Byrne Cup semi-final.
It has given the Kerry man a better than anticipated start to his reign and a derby match against Westmeath will provide a welcome early season test for them as they gear up for the infinitely more important National Football League division 3 opener at home to Longford on January 28.
A great come from behind draw with Dublin in Parnell Park last Wednesday night set Offaly up for qualification and it was confirmed on Sunday when the Dubs succumbed to a 1-12 to 0-14 defeat by Wexford - Dublin needed to win by 17 points to edge Offaly out on scoring difference and that never looked like happening here.
Offaly had done the hard work in their first two games. A 16 point mauling of Wexford set them up and the 0-16 to 1-13 draw in Dublin effectively secured qualification - though no one in Offaly was taking anything for granted until it was officially secured.
Offaly were not expected to come out of the group and the semi-final gives them a very welcome extra game. An extra two games is a possibility, though Westmeatrh will be the favourites on home turf.
So far Offaly have looked impressively fit and sharp. O'Byrne Cup football always comes with a large warning label attached but Offaly have shown some very encouraging form.
While Offaly probably should have won in Parnell Park on Wednesday night, they did well to get the draw and showed great character to come back late on.
Playing against what was essentially Dublin's third string outfit, Offaly didn't find their best game in the first half. Playing with a stiff wind on their back, they kicked 10 first half wides and were in trouble when they went in at the break trailing by 1-8 to 0-6.
They gave a vastly improved display in the second half, eating into the deficit but Dublin were still looking good for the win when they led by three points, 1-13 to 0-13 with six minutes left. Offaly finished powerfully with two points from man of the match, Cian Johnson and one from sub, Nigel Dunne putting them on level terms. They had late chances to win it but ultimately, the draw was enough to earn their semi-final place.
Westmeath will tell Offaly a good bit more about where they are. For Offaly, the result is not that important but the aim is to be competitive and at the very least, give a respectable performance. An experimental young team will have seen their confidence grow in the last two games and they should give a very good account of themselves.

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