Offaly 0-17 London 1-07
Offaly overcame a dismal start at O’Connor Park this afternoon as they came from five points down to record a comfortable 0-17 to 1-07 win over London in the first round of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.
London corner-forward Patrick O’Hara slapped the ball to the Offaly net for a goal after 12 minutes and London led by 1-04 to 0-02 shortly after, but Offaly tacked on 13 Points without reply over 40 minutes to close out a comfortable win against the Exiles.
The headline writers were no doubt waiting in the wings to make references to yet another Brexit when this fixture was drawn out a fortnight ago, however a very bright start from Ciarán Deely’s side suggested that just as was the case in Thursday’s referendum, a shock result was a very live possibility here.
Two points from Niall McNamee in the space of a minute punctuated a series of disastrous attempts on goal from the home side, and after leading by the odd point in three after ten minutes, Offaly trailed by five a quarter of an hour later.
Deely loaded his half forward line with plenty of strong fielders and with a strong breeze aiding Gavin McEvoy’s kickouts, the visitors started to win some good clean possession in advanced positions.
They were handed a huge boost when a 55 metre free from Gottsche was parried by Peter Cunningham on the Offaly goal line, and Patrick O’Hara was on hand to slap the breaking ball into the Offaly net – and there was no sign of Offaly rousing themselves after receiving this jolt either.
Instead London powered ahead with three further points, including a magnificent strike from Liam Gavaghan off the left wing.
Offaly finally woke from their slumber and two interventions from midfielder Eoin Carroll got them back on the path to victory.
A hard-earned turnover at midfield led to Niall McNamee finding Nigel Dunne for a point that broke London’s momentum, while minutes later Carroll drove forward and earned a close range free that Bernard Allen converted.
A glorious chance for the Faithful men to draw level was spurned when Anton Sullivan blasted the ball over the bar from close range with just the keeper to beat, but two further scores from Nigel Dunne ensured that the sides went into the dressing room all square, 0-7 to 1-4.
After the game London manager Ciarán Deely conceded that having played with the wind, going in level at half time effectively spelled doom for their chances – and Offaly soon set about bringing that prophecy to pass, firing over a series of scores.
Direct running earned them a handful of placed ball chances and while several of their forwards struggled to find the target – they ended the game with fourteen wides in total, many of them from seemingly ideal positions – Niall McNamee and Nigel Dunne continued to rack up the scores and drive Offaly further and further clear.
By the time McNamee added his fourth of the afternoon with a little under an hour gone, Offaly had scored 13 times without reply and only the margin of victory was in doubt.
Three late London points kept that gap down a respectable seven points, but there was little doubt that Offaly were guaranteed to be the team that locked down the place in round 2B of the qualifiers, where heavy hitters such as Cork, Mayo and the losers of tonight’s game between Monaghan and Donegal lie in wait.
Offaly: A Mulhall; B Darby, E Rigney, S Pender; N Darby (0-01), P Cunningham, J O’Connor; E Carroll, G Guilfoyle; J Moloney, A Sullivan (0-01), M Brazil; N Dunne (0-07, 0-04 frees), B Allen (0-03, 0-02 frees), N McNamee (0-04)
Subs: N Bracken (0-01) for Moloney (44), J Gethings for Guilfoyle (53), W Mulhall for McNamee (58), J Lalor for B Darby (61), K Garry for A Mulhall (64), L Fox for Carroll (67)
London: G McEvoy; D Ryan, C Carty, P Butler; D McGreevy, C Healy, C Coyne; J Moran, M Gottsche (0-01 free); C Dunne, C Óg Greene, L Gavaghan (0-01); A Moyles (0-01 free), P O’Hara (1-01), S Conroy (0-01 free)
Subs: E Murray for Moran (49), K Butler for Coyne (52), C Dunne for Healy (61), E Mageean (0-01) for Greene (62), C O’Neill for Ryan (64), D Molloy (0-01) for O’Hara (67)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)