Dublin a big test as Offaly hurlers open up league campaign in Croke Park

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Dublin a big test as Offaly hurlers open up league campaign in Croke Park thumbnailOffaly’s Ben Conneely, a key member of the Offaly defence.

SATURDAY night sees the Allianz National hurling league swing into action with Offaly opening their Division 1B campaign with a trip to the Capital and a rare outing in Croke Park.

They will take on Dublin at 5pm on Saturday and it will a good indication of where Offaly are at.

With games against Laois and Antrim concluding the league and Offaly expected by many to win those two, it is the games against Dublin and Limerick that will be looked at as the barometer.

It is hard to know what to make of Dublin. They have been playing multiple challenge games and even playing two on the same day using a vast panel in the month of January.

They have also recruited the likes of Joey Boland and the 35 year old Conal Keaney back onto the panel while also having a few new faces coming to the fore.

Regardless of who they have, the game on Saturday has to be seen from an Offaly point of view as a chance to turn a few heads.

While every panel up and down the country will have their injuries, Kevin Martin and company were working off a close to 40 man panel around the time of the Walsh Cup with plenty of competition all over the field.

Almost 30 players saw action in the Walsh Cup, though the likes of Derek Morkan, Conor Doughan, Cillian Kiely, Joe Bergin, Derek Molloy, Enda Grogan and Sean Ryan didn't see any action.

Competition for places hasn't been as strong for years with Martin really seeming to strike a chord with the players. Remember it was only last year that Kevin Ryan was saying that he couldn't get 30 lads in to have a training game.

While Dublin will go in as strong favourites, there can be optimism in Offaly heading up to Croke Park. The first half display against Kilkenny showed that Offaly have a cut about them this year. Kilkenny had a 90 percent first choice back line with Offaly getting a lot of change off them in that opening half.

As far as selection goes for Saturday, it will be interesting.

All three goalkeepers, Conor Clancy, Conor Slevin and Eoghan Cahill have been given a game in the Walsh Cup. Dan Doughan played two of the three games at centre back while Sean Gardiner played the same number with number three with Dermot Shortt also lining out at wing back and full back.

The likes of Pat Camon, Jordan Quinn, Paddy Rigney, Paddy Delaney, Thomas Spain and David O'Toole are also in contention for the flanks.

Conor Molloy, David King, Thomas Geraghty, Damien Egan and Shane Kinsella have all seen action in the middle of the field with all also well fit to slot into a half forward line.

Up front, Shane Dooley has been used off the bench in the Walsh Cup but it would be a surprise if he didn't start on Saturday. Oisin Kelly, Colin Egan and Colm Gath started all three Walsh Cup games with Conor Mahon, Dan Currams, Ciaran Cleary, James Gorman and Liam Langton all in and around the starting 15 also.

All this is not to mention of the players who didn't play in the Walsh Cup due to injury and holidays so whatever 15 starts out on Saturday, there is bound to be a large number of players keen to make an impact when introduced.

Kevin Martin seems to be going down the route of a tall and strong forward line capable of winning their own ball. That type of player could cause the Dublin defence problems.

If Offaly could turn the Dubs over, it would leave their home game with Limerick the following Sunday in Tullamore a much more movable object. Winning is a habit. Offaly don't have that habit at the moment but a scalp on Saturday could certainly spark it.


Offaly's League Fixtures

Round 1 - Saturday 27th January - Dublin v Offaly (Croke Park)
Round 2 - Sunday 4th February - Offaly v Limerick (O'Connor Park)
Round 3 - Sunday 18th February - Galway v Offaly (Salthill)
Round 4 - Sunday 25th February - Offaly v Laois (O'Connor Park)
Round 5 - Sunday 4th March - Offaly v Antrim (Birr)



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