2023 Leinster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final
Ciaran Burns at Glenisk O’Connor Park, Tullamore (from gaa.ie website)
Offaly knocked out Meath of the Leinster championship and won a second successive provincial championship tie for the first time since 2006 this afternoon in front of over five thousand supporters today in Tullamore, holding on through a tense finish after they dominated the Royal County in the opening half. The Faithful county earned every bit of their win after a gutsy performance sealed their place in a Leinster semi-final in which they face Louth, while Meath enter the 2023 Tailteann Cup draw.
Today Offaly really came into their own but equally Meath were very disappointing. The scoreline might suggest a relatively comfortable Faithful county win yet this was anything but. The home side were by far the better side in the first half, yet Meath managed to make it an uncomfortable final ten minutes. Meath were outworked today but still nearly managed a smash and grab in the closing minutes.
The visitors never really got going and ultimately it was Offaly’s first half performance which won them the game. Offaly’s pace out wide and intensity around the middle made life extremely difficult for Meath who looked far less organised than their hosts. Hard running from Rory Egan and Lee Pearson put Meath on the back foot in the first half. In this fashion, it was right wing back Egan who got the game’s only goal, bringing Offaly to a 1-4 to 0-0 lead after twenty minutes.
The first half continued to favour the home side, with Meath failing to register a score until the 23rd minute. Offaly did kick some poor wides due to rushing the play slightly but generally they were quite clinical, with five different scorers by half time. After a sobering first half, Meath needed to bridge a nine-point gap which saw Offaly up 1-8 to 0-2 at the break.
The second half began with Meath showing much greater intent after some astute substitutes. However, Offaly did not allow Meath get much of a foothold in the game, despite looking tired as the half wore on. Declan Hogan, Ruairi McNamee and Jack McEvoy all impressed for the home side. Nigel Dunne and Anton Sullivan were also a threat going forward.
Offaly remained stubborn as Meath pushed to close the gap. Meath sub Ronan Jones, initially named to start, made a big impact after coming on. His second point brought them within four as the referee added six nervy minutes due an unfortunate injury to Offaly’s Bernard Allen. Donal Keogan and Cillian O’Sullivan worked hard for Meath but overall, they did not do enough to seriously threaten the Offaly men.
The closing minutes were last-gasp, with every supporter on the edge of their seat. Meath ramped up the pressure but were met with heroics at the back from an Offaly side eager to hold on. A brace of Meath points from Cillian O’Sullivan and Jack O’Connor were answered by a much-needed score from Ruairi McNamee. The Faithful centre-forward’s sailing kick was met by a magnificent roar from the nervous crowd.
In the end, Meath could not muster a strong enough comeback, despite a much better second half performance. They now have to contend with a Tailteann Cup tilt to try and save their season, while Offaly have their sights firmly set on Croke Park and a bout with Louth in the Leinster semi-final.
Scorers for Offaly: Rory Egan 1-1, Nigel Dunne 0-4 (0-1f, 0-1 45), Ruairi McNamee and Dylan Hyland (0-1f) 0-2 each, Anton Sullivan and Bernard Allen 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath: Mathew Costello 0-3 (0-2f), Jason Scully and Ronan Jones 0-2 each, Jack O’Connor, Donal Lenihan and Cillian O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Offaly: Ian Duffy; Lee Pearson; Declan Hogan; David Dempsey; Rory Egan; Peter Cunningham; Ciaran Donnelly; Jack McEvoy; Conor McNamee; Cian Farrell; Ruairí McNamee; Anton Sullivan; Dylan Hyland; Nigel Dunne; Jamie Evans.
Subs: Cian Donohue for Egan (HT), Bernard Allen for Farrell (50), Joe Maher for Evans (57), Bill Carroll for C McNamee (60), Shane Tierney for Allen (60).
Meath: Harry Hogan; Adam O’Neill; Ronan Ryan; Michael Flood; Donal Keogan; Padraic Harnan; Sean Coffey; Jack Flynn; Daithí McGowan; Cillian O’Sullivan; Mathew Costello; Cathal Hickey; Jordan Morris; Keith Curtis; Donal Lenihan.
Subs: Jack O’Connor for Hickey (HT), Harry O’Higgins for Flood (HT), Jason Scully for McGowan (HT), Ronan Jones for Lenihan (55), Diarmuid Moriarty for Curtis (59).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois)