OFFALY footballers and hurlers face into early season must win games next Sunday. The footballers welcome Longford to Tullamore for an National Football League Division 3 game that will definne whether they enter the promotion or relegation race while the hurlers travel to Kerry for an absolutely crunch National Hurling League Division 2A showdown.
While the hurlers got the two points they so needed, it was a mixed weekend for Offaly's teams. The hurlers had a 0-26 to 1-21 win over Meath but were mediocre in the second half and almost suffered a devastating defeat.
The footballers played well to lead Cork by a point at half time but were outplayed in the second half as they went down to a 0-20 to 0-13 defeat. While a defeat was anticipated, it puts real pressure on Offaly for this Sunday's home game against Longford – Offaly lost to Longford at home in the O'Byrne Cup final two weeks ago but this game is way more important and will have a much bigger bearing on their season.
The hurlers now find themselves in the third tier after dual relegations last year and are desperate to climb out of Division 2A. They play their two most important games in the campaign next, travelling to Kerry on Sunday and welcoming Antrim to Tullamore on February 16. They will be expected to beat Wicklow and Mayo but promotion is likely to boil down to Offaly, Kerry and Antrim.
Only one team will be promoted with the top two teams winning in the divisional final. It means the stakes are massive for Offaly over the next few weeks and they must win at least one of the games against Kerry and Antrim, who beat them last year in big Joe McDonagh Cup games.
Meanwhile Offaly U-20 footballers continued their championship preparations with a fine 4-7 to 3-7 win over Clare in the Liam O'Connor Cup final at Miltown Malbay on Saturday. Offaly had lost to the same opposition a couple of weeks ago, performing very poorly but this was much better.
See inside for reports on last week's games and previews of this weekend's ones.