Tailteann Cup Group One
Offaly 2-14 London 0-11
By Ciaran Burns at Glenisk O’Connor Park (from gaa.ie website)
Offaly will go into a big local derby clash with Laois in Round Two of the Tailteann Cup on the back of a comfortable opening weekend win over London, in what was quite a one-sided affair. The visitors never-say-die attitude was admirable but ultimately not enough as the home side ran out deserving winners.
After their extra-time loss to Louth in the Leinster semi-final two weeks ago, Offaly looked fresh and ready for the new challenge that is the Tailteann Cup.
Offaly had the wind to begin with and looked primed going forward. Cian Farrell’s left-footed curler got the favourites off to a solid start and Dylan Hyland settled them further with a coolly taken mark. Hyland, who has had an excellent season so far, added his second from a place ball moments after.
With the ball, Offaly probed well and constantly looked to move it quickly. In contrast, London set up very defensively, doing well to slow Offaly down but rarely preventing shooting chances. The visitors failed to commit numbers forward, making it extremely difficult to manage shots on goal, especially against an in-form Offaly defence.
Twenty minutes in, Offaly led by seven points to nil and the home side nabbed their first goal after overturning a London kick-out. Right half-forward Farrell ruthlessly dispatched it past London keeper Andrew Walsh. Offaly kept the pressure on London and when met by London’s defensive banks, patiently created openings for kick passes into dangerous spaces. The Faithful appeared fitter and ran their guests ragged with fast counters down the wings. Peter Cunningham and Ciaran Donnelly were invaluable here.
London lost a key threat in Chris Farley after 30 minutes with what looked to be an injury. Joshua Obahor notched his side’s first score with a vaulted effort from distance as another London attack was well-marshalled. Obahor was good for the Exiles, solid in possession and led his team forward with powerful running. Liam Gavaghan managed a second for his side with a free just before the break.
Despite their clear dominance, Offaly got sloppy as the half waned, appearing to slack off with as their lead grew again thanks to a Jack McEvoy point from outside the ‘D’. The half-time whistle came just after a well worked London point from hard-working wing back Aidan McLoughlin. London persevered through a tough first half and went in at the break trailing by 1-09 to 0-3.
The restart didn’t lead to any huge change in the flow of thee game as Offaly went straight up the field for Farrell to snatch another score. Soon after, a good pass from Aaron Leavy found corner-back Lee Pearson, whose shot was blocked by Walsh. The game had become more open at this stage, with London beginning to commit more men forward. For the Exiles, Eoin Walsh and Aidan McLoughlin grew into the game, driving at Offaly through the middle. With the score 1-10 to 0-5 after 50 minutes, it looked a bridge too far for London but to their credit they kept pushing. Their biggest enemy was often themselves, unforced errors killing their own momentum.
By now, both sides opted for more of a man-for-man approaches, London needing numbers high up the field to catch their hosts’ lead. Liam Gavaghan looked impressive at times, his right boot proving clinical when given the chance. He made it 1-12 to 0-6 after 57 minutes. Cian Farrell put the game beyond doubt with his second goal, a beautiful strike into the bottom right-hand corner after wonderful build-up play down the wing.
Offaly’s forward line were superb. With a lovely blend of right and left sided shooters their attacking prowess caught London out on numerous occasions and will prove a threat to any Tailteann Cup opposition. Though the game could be said to have been out of sight, Offaly let London creep back into the game with the game’s final four scores.
London will find it difficult against Cavan next time out, but can be pleased with how they finished the game. Offaly, meanwhile, have gathered a string of exciting displays heading into a clash with local rivals Laois next Saturday night in Portlaoise.
Scorers for Offaly: Cian Farrell 2-4 (0-1f), Dylan Hyland 0-4 (0-1f, 0-1m), Nigel Dunne 0-3 (0-2f), Jack McEvoy 0-1, Anton Sullivan 0-1, Cormac Delaney 0-1 (0-1f).
Scorers for London: Liam Gavaghan 0-3 (0-2f), Aidan McLoughlin 0-2, Joshua Obahor 0-2, Conal Gallagher 0-2, Liam Gallagher 0-1, Joseph McGill 0-1 (0-1f).
Offaly: Ian Duffy; Lee Pearson, Declan Hogan, David Dempsey; Jack O’Brien, Peter Cunningham, Ciaran Donnelly; Aaron Leavy, Jack McEvoy; Dylan Hyland, Ruairi McNamee, Joe Maher; Cian Farrell, Nigel Dunne, Anton Sullivan.
Subs: Cian Donoghue for Dempsey (30), Morgan Tynan for McNamee (49), Cormac Delaney for Dunne (56), Nigel Bracken for Hyland (61), Shane Tierney for Sullivan.
London: Andrew Walsh; Michael Clarke, Cahir Healy, Nathan McElwaine; Ronan Slone, Eoin Walsh, Aidan McLoughlin; Daniel Clarke, Joshua Obahor; Conal Gallagher, Stephen Dornan, Liam Gallagher; Christopher Farley, Liam Gavaghan, Conor O’Neill.
Subs: Joseph McGill for Farley (30), Ryan Tohill for Dornan (33), Fiontan Eastwood for McElwaine (44), James Hynes for Clarke (56), Henry Walsh for Gavaghan (58).
Referee: David Murnane (Cork)