Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship
IT ended up as a heavier defeat but Offaly gave a vastly improved, infinitely better display than their previous outing when their interest in the Leinster Minor Football Championship ended last Wednesday in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park – they still have the option of entering a shield competition for non qualifiers.
A week earlier, Offaly had suffered a 0-8 to 0-5 defeat in Meath, scoring all their points from frees and having just one wide as they gave a shockingly defensive performance. This, however, was on a different planet compared to that, much more satisfying as Offaly gave it a right good go and were far closer to the win than the final score line suggests.
Indeed the 2-13 to 0-13 score was very harsh on Offaly. Apart from a dire ten minute spell in the first half, they matched or bettered Dublin in most aspects and could very easily have won this one – at the very least, Offaly should have been snapping on their heels and their tale of woe included a plethora of missed goal chances, including two penalties in the space of one extraordinary second half minute.
As things worked out, a win would not have saved Offaly's championship bacon and sent them into the quarter-final. Meath did a job on Wexford and had Offaly managed to pull it off here, it would not have been by a big enough margin to have went through on scoring difference and they would still have bowed out. However, this was a far more satisfying performance than a week earlier and they gave a mighty effort on the day, displaying total commitment and honesty.
Overall, Offaly should be very proud of the way they performed in this competition. They have competed really well and while the Meath performance did do a lot of damage, it provided an invaluable learning curve for a young team and young management.
It was very clear here that they had learnt important lessons – Offaly still played defensively at times, channeling men back but unlike in Navan, they quickly got bodies forward when they broke out of defence. Defensive tactics have a role in the modern football world but you must still get bodies forward to win a game and they failed to do that for long enough in Navan.
Against Dublin, they were so much better and they produced spells of really good attacking football. They were left to rue all those missed chances but there is no doubt that supporters would rather be regretting those than reflecting on not giving a game a real go.
Offaly were very close to the win and they could easily have scored four or five goals. They were trailing by 2-7 to 0-8 when they ripped into Dublin with everything they had. Morgan Tynan drew a brilliant Hugh O'Sullivan save in the 38th minute as he finger tipped the Ballinagar man's pile driver over the bar. Moments later, influential centre half forward Cormac Delaney was fouled in the process of shooting from point blank range and a penalty was awarded. His shot was smothered by O'Sullivan but in the follow up scramble, another penalty was awarded and this time the Clara man blazed wide of the target.
Late on Darragh Flynn had a good goal chance deflected out for a “45” that Delaney, very accurate from placed balls off the ground, pointed. Flynn also added a late point that could have been a goal and it was bemusing that Offaly failed to manage at least one goal.
By contrast, Dublin took most of the chances that came their way and it was telling that all but one point came from play. Offaly were solid and competed well in the first ten minutes, trailing by 0-2 to 0-1 at that stage and working very hard.
Mark Bolton made a great 9th minute block to deny Fionn Murray a goal and the game was won and lost in the next ten minutes. Offaly just couldn't compete in this spell as the brilliant Robbie Bolger, and Fionn Murray got goals and the visitors went ahead 2-5 to 0-2 by the 19th minute.
You had to fear the worse for Offaly at this stage – they were being tore apart and looked like they could get a bad beating. They deserve immense credit for the way they knuckled down and steadied the ship. They didn't panic, they kept trying to do the right thging and they lifted the siege as points from Morgan Tynan (free), Cormac Delaney (two, one free) and Darragh Flynn knocked the wind out of Dublin's sails. Luke Swan and Tynan (free) swopped late points to leave Dublin ahead by 2-6 to 0-7 at the break.
It was 2-7 to 0-8 by the 36th minute and Offaly really went at it after that – while their missed goal chances will last in the memory, there were other factors in Offaly's defeat in this period. They gave away too much sloppy ball, just giving a misplaced pass or trying to find a colleague who wasn't expecting it while Morgan Tynan blazed a 14 yard free wide off his left boot and other chances went abegging.
It was 2-8 to 0-10 at the three quarter way stage and it was a pity that Offaly didn't get the goal that would have asked the really serious questions of Dublin. Dublin took advantage of those let offs and by the 52th minute, they were back in control as they led by 2-12 to 0-10.
Offaly got three of the last four points as they suffered a brave defeat. On the day, Adam Strong and the superb Lee Pearson stood out in the Offaly defence while Harry Plunkett had another excellent game in a roving defensive role, showing great movement and energy, though he will be disappointed at a few of the balls that found Dublin hands rather than team mates. Luke Egan was once again superb in midfield, working his socks off and covering great ground. Cormac Delaney had a fine game in attack, Adam Kelly had a very good first half as he did the simple thing efficiently and Morgan Tynan and Darragh Flynn also had very good moments.
DUBLIN: Hugh O’Sullivan; Conor Tyrrell, Ben Millist, Eoin Gannon; Alex Watson, Senan Forker, Jack Lundy; Harry Colclough, David O’Dowd; Luke Curran, Sean Kinsella, Fionn Murray; Dara Fagan, Luke Swan, Robbie Bolger. Subs – Kieran Conroy for Forker (inj., 21m), Callum Monaghan for Gannon (black card, 30 minutes +2), Ross Keogh for Fagan (44m), Luke Murphy-Guinane for Curran (49m), Cuan Nugent for Colclough (56m), Fionan James Turner for O’Dowd (56m).
OFFALY: Cathal Ryan (Kilclonfert); Mark Bolton (Tullamore), Fionn Dempsey (Bracknagh), David Dempsey (Clonbullogue); John Furlong (Tullamore), Adam Strong (Ballinagar), Lee Pearson (Edenderry); Ryan Strong (Ballinagar), Luke Egan (Tullamore); Jay Sheerin (Tullamore), Cormac Delaney (Clara), Adam Kelly (Clara); Harry Plunkett (Tullamore), Morgan Tynan (Ballinagar), Darragh Flynn (Ferbane). Subs – James Nolan (Raheen) for Bolton (half time), Darra Daly (Shamrocks) for Ryan Strong (49m), Aran Byrne (Daingean) for Kelly (49m), Corey White (Tullamore) for Plunkett (49m), Daniel Fox (Tullamore) for Furlong (57m), Colin Egan (Ferbane) for Dempsey (57m).
Referee – Niall Ward (Westmeath).
MAN OF THE MATCH
Robbie Bolger (Dublin): Robbie Bolger was a match winner for Dublin. He showed tremendous pace and skill, scoring 1-3 and inflicting particular damage on Offaly during their good spell in the first half.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Offaly had a great chance to get right back into it in the 41st minute with two penalties in the space of a minute but Cormac Delaney didn't convert either.
A good game by Niall Ward who wasn't a factor in the result.
The difference in Offaly's approach in the space of a week – they showed great intensity and honesty here while also taking on Dublin in an attacking sense.
O'Connor Park was in fantastic condition on a lovely May evening.
There is an optional shield competition for non qualifiers and hopefully Offaly will enter that. They will have a good chance of winning it which would boost confidence and they will also be playing in a less pressurised environment which should help bring them on. A decision hasn't been made yet on whether Offaly will enter it.
Wides: Dublin – 6 (3 in first half); Offaly – 6 (4 in first half).
Yellow cards: Dublin – 2 (Conor Tyrrell and Callum Monaghan); Offaly – 1 (James Nolan).
Black cards: Dublin – 1 (Eoin Gannon); Offaly – 0.
Red cards: 0.
Dublin: Robbie Bolger 2-3, Luke Swan 0-3, Fionn Murray 1-1 (1 ‘45’), Callum Monaghan 0-2, David O’Dowd, Sean Kinsella, Dara Fagan and Ross Keogh 0-1 each.
Offaly: Cormac Delaney 0-6 (3f and one ‘45’), Morgan Tynan 0-4 (3f), Darragh Flynn 0-2, Jay Sheerin 0-1.