Allianz Football League Division Two
Offaly 0-15 Down 0-14
By Orla Bannon at Páirc Esler (from gaa.ie website)
Offaly scored four unanswered points in the closing seven minutes to beat Down in a hugely significant Division Two relegation battle in Newry.
Lee Pearson’s fisted point in the second minute of injury time snatched a first win of the campaign for Offaly, injecting serious momentum into their bid to escape relegation.
It was a dramatic turnaround given Down held a 0-14 to 0-11 lead with four minutes of normal time remaining and also hit the crossbar with a late goal chance.
Even after Offaly went ahead, Down had a chance to grab a draw but it was a difficult free in tricky conditions in Pairc Esler and Barry O’Hagan’s effort tailed wide, inflicting a hugely damaging defeat on the winless home side who are in serious relegation trouble with games against Cork and Clare to come.
Offaly played with the wind in the first half and despite struggling to win their own kickouts, they led 0-5 to 0-3 after 15 minutes.
All their scores were from play with Jordan Hayes, Bernard Allen and Ruairi McNamee’s points among their best.
Down had plenty of possession, Caolan Mooney’s brilliant point after a surging run was a highlight, but were taking the wrong option at times with Offaly seemingly more efficient.
It all changed though in the second quarter when Barry O’Hagan came to the party for Down. He scored four points from play in a 10-minute spell with Offaly unable to contain him.
Conor Poland’s point edged Down in front for the first time after 24 minutes but Offaly replied with the final two points of the half to level things up at 0-8 apiece.
It was the fourth time in the first half that they were level and it was more of the same after the break with little to separate two teams desperately searching fort a first league win.
The tempo and intensity of the game was noticeably upped in the second half and the game became more open as a result.
Three times Down edged in front and three times Offaly responded before a brace from Liam Kerr gave Down some breathing space. They fought hard to keep it too with a period of possession football played mostly between the ‘45’s.
Down then carved out the best goal chance of the game. Corey Quinn first hit the crossbar and from the rebound another sub Odhran Murdock’s goal-bound shot was deflected wide.
Niall Kane nailed the ‘45’ to put Down three up with four minutes of normal time and the very real prospect of defeat seemed to stir Offaly into the best play of the night.
Bernard Allen and Niall Darby pointed and a free from ‘keeper Paddy Dunican drew Offaly level in the first minute of stoppage time before Lee Pearson somehow snatched victory with a fisted point a minute later.
Scorers for Offaly: Bernard Allen 0-3, Niall McNamee 0-3 (1f), Niall Darby, Jordan Hayes, Lee Pearson, Mark Abbott, Keith O’Neill, Dylan Hyland, Ruairi McNamee, Anton Sullivan 0-1 each, Paddy Dunican 0-1 (f).
Scorers for Down: Barry O’Hagan 0-4, Liam Kerr 0-2, Andrew Gilmore 0-2 (2f), Conor Poland, Daniel Guinness, Caolan Mooney, Pat Havern, Ceilum Doherty 0-1 each, Niall Kane 0-1 (a ‘45’)
Offaly: Paddy Dunican; Declan Hogan, James Lalor, Niall Darby; Rory Egan, Ciaran Donnelly, Lee Pearson; Bill Carroll, Jordan Hayes; Mark Abbott, Keith O’Neill, Dylan Hyland; Bernard Allen, Niall McNamee, Ruairi McNamee
Subs: Cathal Mangan for Carroll (HT), Anton Sullivan for O’Neill (52), Cathal Flynn for N McNamee (62), Cathal Donoghue for Hyland (66), James McEvoy for R McNamee (74).
Down: Niall Kane; Peter Fegan, Finn McElroy, Adam Lynch; Darren O’Hagan, Conor Poland, Daniel Guinness; Anthony Doherty, Niall McParland; Caolan Mooney, Liam Kerr, Ryan McEvoy; Andrew Gilmore, Pat Havern. Barry O’Hagan
Subs: Ceilum Doherty for Lynch (HT), Gerard Collins for Guinness (53), Cory Quinn for Gilmore (62), Odhran Murdock for McEvoy (62), Kevin McKernan for Havern (69).
Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo).