THERE may have been a time when the words “gallant, pride and defeats” did not sit well in the one sentence but there was still a large dose of satisfaction at the way Offaly senior footballers and hurlers competed in their big championship openers last weekend.
The footballers almost pulled off their biggest win in years when they endured an agonising 1-13 to 0-14 defeat by Meath in the Leinster championship in Navan's Pairc Tealteann on Sunday.
The previous evening, the hurlers had also went very close to a crucial win, losing by 4-22 to 3-21 in a rip roaring Joe McDonagh Cup encounter in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park, Tullamore.
While defeat proved to be Offaly's lot in both games, there was widespread satisfaction at the way both teams performed, particularly their honesty and commitment as they left nothing in the tank.
Particular praise was reserved for the footballers as they had Meath on the ropes half way through the second half. 8-1 outsiders, Offaly had played some of their best football in recent memory in the third quarter as they scored seven points on the trot to overturn a 0-9 to 0-6 half time deficit into a 0-13 to 0-9 lead.
They couldn't, however, sustain that fierce momentum. The loss of some key players exacted a heavy toll and a soft Meath goal in the 64th minute gave them a 1-12 to 0-13 lead. They were able to hold on but Offaly were very close to a memorable win – they will now go into the qualifiers draw.
The hurlers were bitterly disappointed to lose out to Laois in a high scoring shoot out that produced tremendous entertainment. Like the footballers, they were within touching distance of the win and it would not have taken a lot more to have got the result.
Relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup last year and from Division 1 of the National Hurling League this year, Kevin Martin's charges had a lot to prove and they played some fine hurling. Offaly went in level at half time, 1-10 to 0-13, despite being on the back foot for extended periods but they got their noses in front well into the second half before being overhauled late on.
Oisin Kelly had a magnificent game, scoring 2-3 while Joe Bergin really stood up to be counted in the second half.
It leaves Offaly poised on a knife edge now as they bid to return to top tier hurling. They travel to Mullingar this Saturday for a crucial must win game against Westmeath.
Meanwhile, Offaly minor footballers have a big game against Dublin tonight (Wednesday) in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park where that result and the one between Meath and Wexford will determine whether they go into the quarter-final or bow out – they lost by three points to Meath last Wednesday night after giving a very defensive display.
The minor hurlers suffered a very heavy defeat by Kilkenny on Saturday and they now wait until June 6 for a quarter-final against one of the teams from the lower tiers in the Leinster championship.
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