Kevin Egan reports from O’Connor Park
NOT TO BE outdone by their Midland rivals Laois and Westmeath, Offaly added their names to Monday morning’s third round qualifier draw thanks to a comprehensive home win over Sligo in Tullamore.
It means that Sligo’s dismal 17-month run without a competitive win will continue on into 2020.
When these sides met in the final round of the league, it took a late point from substitute Mark Abbott to give Offaly a win by the minimum margin, a result that saved the Faithful County’s division three status.
It was hard to imagine that was just over two months ago as there was a world between the sides in Tullamore today, to the point that when Niall McNamee and Shane Horan fired in early goals, it was easy to imagine that Offaly might go on to record a landslide win.
The pace of their football was superb, they had a greater range of scoring threats (seven out of eight starters at midfield and up front scored from play) and while they struggled to compete with Sligo at kick-out time, otherwise they were well on top.
They led by 2-3 to 0-2 after 13 minutes, before going through a lull in which Sligo got right back into the game. Pat Hughes and Niall Murphy got scores from close range, Paddy O’Connor was on the mark with two good kicks from distance, and if it wasn’t for a stunning save from Paddy Dunican to deny O’Connor a goal, Offaly’s five-point half-time lead (2-8 to 0-9) could have been a lot smaller.
Even at that, the door was open for Sligo. They had the wind at their backs, they were getting on a lot of ball and if they got out to a good start after the break, the game was there for the taking.
Instead, they were completely overwhelmed, with McNamee’s second goal — palmed to the net after great approach play from Eoin Carroll — the first score of the half.
Around the middle third, the Yeats County competed well for breaking ball and earned their share of possession, but this was in part because they were forced to play Niall Murphy and Seán Carrabine in deeper roles, and they suffered close to goal.
Paddy Dunican, Shane Horan and Bernard Allen all tacked on points before Sligo finally broke a 19-minute scoring drought with a superb arcing kick from Barry Gorman, and that was far too little and too late for Paul Taylor’s men.
Offaly continued to build their tally right up until the end, to the point that they are now the third highest scoring team in the championship per game played, behind only Dublin and Tyrone.
For Sligo, the long wait for a meaningful win continues.
Scorers for Offaly: Niall McNamee 2-2 (0-1f), Bernard Allen 0-4 (0-1f), Shane Horan 1-1, Paddy Dunican 0-3 (0-2f, 0-1 ’45), Cathal Mangan 0-2, Peter Cunningham. Eoin Carroll, Anton Sullivan, Niall Darby & David Dempsey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sligo: Niall Murphy 0-4 (0-1f), Sean Carrabine (0-2f), Paddy O’Connor, Darragh Cummins & Pat Hughes 0-2 each, Paul Kilcoyne, David Quinn & Barry Gorman 0-1 each.
1. Paddy Dunican
2. Declan Hogan
3. Eoin Rigney
4. David Dempsey
5. Cian Donohoe
6. Johnny Moloney
7. Niall Darby
8. Eoin Carroll
9. Peter Cunningham
10. Shane Horan
11. Anton Sullivan
12. Cathal Mangan
13. Bernard Allen
14. Niall McNamee
15. Ruairí McNamee
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19. Mark Abbott for R McNamee (51)
17. Paul McConway for Sullivan (63)
18. Joseph O’Connor for Mangan (64)
20. Shane Tierney for N McNamee (69)
25. Clint Horan for Hogan (70)
22. Nigel Bracken for Horan (70+2).
1. Eamon Kilgallon
7. Paul McNamara
3. Peter Laffey
12. Nathan Mullen
6. Darragh Cummins
4. Keelan Cawley
5. Gerard O’Kelly Lynch
9. Paul Kilcoyne
8. Adrian McIntyre
19. Karl McKenna
11. Paddy O’Connor
10. Mickey Gordon
13. Seán Carrabine
15. Pat Hughes
14. Niall Murphy.
18. Neil Ewing for McKenna (9, black card)
20. David Quinn for O’Connor (30, temp)
22. Barry Gorman for Gordon (48)
21. John F Carr for O’Kelly Lynch (51)
23. Luke Nicholson for McIntyre (57).
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