Allianz Football League Division Two
OFFALY 1-10 MEATH 1-10
Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park
It wasn’t a contest that will live long in the memory in terms of quality, but there was no shortage of intensity, drama or tension at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park this afternoon, where Joey Wallace’s late fisted goal salvaged a share of the spoils for Meath and snatched away what would have been a crucial victory for Offaly.
Meath had plenty of goal chances over the course of this contest and only some heroic goalkeeping from Paddy Dunican in the Offaly goal had preserved the home side’s lead going into stoppage time. A series of high deliveries were floated into the Offaly goalmouth by the Royal men and it looked like their efforts were to be in vain, until Ronan Jones pounced on a miscued clearance and sent one more Hail Mary into the large square.
Dunican was equal to Eoin Harkin’s first punched effort, but he could only parry the ball and Joey Wallace was able to finish it to the net. As the Offaly backs screamed for a square ball decision, referee Fergal Kelly consulted his umpires and allowed the goal to stand, giving the Faithful County their first point of the season, but one that will feel like an inadequate return, given it looked like they had done enough to secure the win.
It was a contest that didn’t catch fire in the early stages, in much the same way that Charleville Woods, just outside Tullamore, didn’t exactly catch fire this afternoon either. The temperature was a long way short of what was needed for true combustion right up until first half stoppage time.
Meath were probably the happier side with that state of affairs, given that they were playing into a very strong wind. The Royal County enjoyed plenty of possession all right, but since anything more that 25 metres out from the Park Avenue end goal was out of range, they found it difficult to create clearcut scoring chances and instead were solely reliant on dead ball scores in the first half.
Offaly, understandably, had more and better chances of scores, but some desperately poor shooting ensured that there was never more than a point between the sides. Jack Bryant got the home side off the mark with a superb point from play, cancelling out an early free from Shane Walsh, but three terrible wides inside the first ten minutes ensured that there was no momentum picked up at any stage by Faithful men.
Meath’s support running and ball movement was decent, with Cillian O’Sullivan’s return to the starting team giving them a focal point at the centre of the attack, and that helped create goal chances for Tomas O’Reilly and Matthew Costello, which were blocked by Dunican and Colm Doyle.
It was only when Meath inched in front at 0-5 to 0-4, that Offaly finally seemed to show signs of life, restoring a narrow advantage through points from Dylan Hyland and Mark Abbott.
A lifeline came Offaly’s way when an inexplicable trip from Jack O’Connor on an Offaly defender with the last play of the first half meant he was shown a black card, and Offaly took advantage to kick on and add the first two points of the second half through Niall McNamee and Dylan Hyland.
Hyland was in sensational form for the home side in the second half, taking his tally up to four points, while McNamee mixed the good with the bad, adding a host of wides and giveaway passes to his scores. However he was still the man that looked like he delivered the win when he finished the ball to the net in the 63rd minute, following excellent link up play with his Rhode colleagues Anton Sullivan and Rúairí McNamee to set up the close range chance.
With Meath’s wide count mounting, that looked like it would be enough – right up until it wasn’t, and Joey Wallace gave Meath their second draw in a row.
Scorers for Offaly: Niall McNamee 1-3 (0-1f), Dylan Hyland 0-4, Jack Bryant, Mark Abbott, Paddy Dunican (45) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath: Jordan Morris 0-4 (0-2f), Joey Wallace 1-0, Harry Hogan 0-2f, Shane Walsh (f), Donal Keogan, Eoin Harkin, Jason Scully 0-1 each.
Offaly: Paddy Dunican; Niall Darby, Kieran Dolan, Declan Hogan; Colm Doyle, James Lalor, Cian Donohoe; Bill Carroll, Jordan Hayes; Dylan Hyland, David Dempsey, Mark Abbott; Jack Bryant, Niall McNamee, Rúairí McNamee.
Subs: Cathal Donoghue for Donohoe (21), Anton Sullivan for Donoghue (52), Keith O’Neill for Bryant (58), Cathal Flynn for Abbott (70), Cormac Egan for R McNamee (72).
Meath: Harry Hogan; Robin Clarke, Eoin Harkin, Jordan Muldoon; Donal Keogan, Shane McEntee, Cathal Hickey; Ronan Jones, Pádraic Harnan; Jason Scully, Thomas O’Reilly, Mathew Costello; Jordan Morris, Shane Walsh, Cillian O’Sullivan.
Subs: Jack O’Connor for Hickey (17), Ronan Ryan for Clarke (31), Eamon Wallace for O’Reilly (52), Joey Wallace for O’Sullivan (53), James McEntee for Costello (68).
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)