Offaly SFC Final
Tullamore 1-5 Ferbane 0-6
By Kevin Egan at Glenisk O’Connor Park
After coming through two thrilling semi-finals a fortnight ago, Tullamore and Ferbane adapted their game to the conditions in Glenisk O’Connor Park, where Luke Plunkett’s goal for after 13 minutes proved to be the crucial score in a fiercely intense and physical encounter that culminated in Tullamore’s 29th Offaly senior football title.
The error count was high on both sides, particularly in front of the posts, but with the hits coming in hard and fast, players could be forgiven for the majority, as neither side conceded possession to the other in any sector of the field.
There was a period of settling in as these two clubs that have known plenty of tense, heartbreaking defeats in recent years, found their feet. However, even after a tense and scoreless opening five minutes, there was still no sense that this game was on course to be the lowest scoring Offaly final since Tullamore beat Cloghan by 0-8 to 0-1 in 1956.
Harry Plunkett took advantage of a mistake by the Ferbane goalkeeper to tap over an early free to break the deadlock, county hurler Jack Clancy replied with a point for the West Offaly side, and while scores weren’t flowing freely, much of this was due to poor finishing, rather than any excessive level of defensiveness or fear in the tactical approach of the two sides.
A run from Cormac Egan set up Luke Plunkett for a goal midway through the first half in a score that threatened to ignite the game, and when Oisín Keenan-Martin and Joe Maher traded points, it seemed like these two championship front-runners might settle into a spell of trading scores.
Instead, Paddy Clancy’s score with 22 minutes gone was to be followed by 36 minutes in which the two teams scored just a single point each, with the commendable levels of physicality of the game forcing a sky-high error count, including poor wides, misplaced passes and spills in the tackle.
Referee Chris Dwyer did as well as he could to keep the game going by giving as much leeway as possible to tacklers, while Cian Johnson hinted at his potential when he kicked a point within two minutes of coming onto the field as a half-time substitute, but continuity and flow was still sorely lacking.
Patrick Taaffe and Jack Clancy missed Ferbane’s best chances in the final quarter and when man of the match John Furlong drove forward to kick a point to make it 1-4 to 0-4 with two minutes remaining, that looked like it would have been enough.
There was a brief flash of hope when a late long ball attack led to Johnson opening up an opportunity for Jack Clancy, who saw his effort brilliantly-saved by Corey White.
Johnson did find the target with a free and a punched point in the closing minutes, and Chris Dwyer gave them a chance to win one last kickout, but Tullamore retained that last possession and a foul on Furlong allowed joint captain Michael Brazil to round off the scoring.
Scorers for Tullamore: L Plunkett 1-0, H Plunkett 0-1f, O Keenan-Martin 0-1, N Bracken 0-1, J Furlong 0-1, M Brazil 0-1f.
Scorers for Ferbane: C Johnson 0-3 (0-1f), J Clancy 0-1, J Maher 0-1, P Clancy 0-1.
Tullamore: Corey White; Declan Hogan, Daire McDaid, Paul McConway; Oisín Keenan Martin, John Furlong, Nigel Bracken; Aaron Leavy, Aaron Hensey; Harry Plunkett, Diarmuid Egan, Michael Brazil; Dan Fox, Luke Plunkett, Cormac Egan.
Subs: Luke Egan for H Plunkett (HT), Niall Furlong for Fox (48), Jay Sheerin for Keenan-Martin (48), Mike Fox for D Egan (57).
Ferbane: David Dunican; Patrick Taaffe, Ciarán Cahill, Conor Butler; Kevin Nugent, Leon Fox, Shane Nally; David Kelly, Paddy Clancy; Cathal Flynn, Jack Clancy, David Nally; Joe Maher, Ronan McGuire, Darragh Flynn.
Subs: Cian Johnson for McGuire (HT), Conor Grennan for D Nally (40), James Nally for Kelly (44), Jack Egan for D Flynn (47), Stephen Wren for Cahill (60+2).
Referee: Chris Dwyer.