U20 footballers open championship account this Saturday

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brian.lowry@midlandtribune.ie

After months of training, challenge and league matches, the Offaly U20 footballers get down to brass tax this Saturday when they open their championship account away to Carlow.

It has been a long time since last Winter for the panel and management but no one can say they haven't prepared thoroughly and diligently.

They will go into Saturday's game with morale and confidence levels high having gone through the Liam O'Connor Cup (U20 league) unbeaten and picking up the silverware last Wednesday night with a win over Westmeath.

Wins over Limerick, Wicklow and Clare followed before that win over their neighbours last week and the squad have been in free scoring form.

Under the guidance of Declan Kelly, Ger Rafferty and David Connolly, the squad are in great shape and will be hoping to clear their first hurdle on Saturday.

The championship format is straight knockout so the minds will be focused and there is no fear of players or management getting carried away with a league win.

Cian Farrell and Cian Johnson are the big names in the team. Farrell scored 1-11 out of 1-15 last Wednesday night while Johnson has also been shooting the lights out in previous games and sat out last weeks game due to injury.

All involved will be hoping that he can prove his fitness this week and be fit to start but there looks to be a panel this year that can cope with injuries and whatever else is thrown at them.

Along with Johnson and Farrell, their forward options are impressive. Jack Bryant, Kevin McDermott, Seanie Farrell, Shane O'Toole-Greene and Oisin Murphy all started that game last week but options such as Nathan Poland, Johnson, Dan Wyer (who is also an option at midfield) show that they are well equipped.

Cathal Donoghue and Jack McEvoy looked to have struck up a decent midfield pairing while the team will be Captained by Jack O'Brien who could fill any of the roles in the back line.

Ferbane's Jack Cullinan looks set to command the goalkeepers jersey while the energetic Ciaran Donnelly has been standing out at wing back.

Carlow also played in a different U20 league and they beat Wexford 2-15 to 2-9 while also losing narrowly to Laois 1-17 to 2-11.

The winners of Saturday's game will progress to a second round meeting with Meath but Offaly can ill afford to look down the track.

Declan Kelly and his management team have a couple of niggly injuries to watch over this week but come Saturday, they are expected to have a full deck to pick from.

Verdict: Offaly.

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