Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Lyng spurns a sitter and Offaly scramble homeJune 6, 2012 - 7:42pm
LITTLE happened between Offaly and Wexford at Tullamore last Saturday evening to alarm the main contenders for this year’s All-Ireland hurling title. Ollie Baker’s squad scraped through in the end as had been generally anticipated, but the overall standard in a wildly fluctuating struggle was no great shakes even allowing for the persistent rain at O’Connor Park.
The Leinster championship has long since been a one horse town as Kilkenny have captured 13 of the last 14 provincial titles with only Michael Jacob’s late goal in 2004 for Wexford breaking the Cats’ protracted monopoly. Offaly haven’t triumphed in Leinster since 1995 and though they will draw some heart from a first championship win over Wexford in 12 years, they have some serious improving to do.
Still, Saturday evening’s fixture was a difficult one for them in more ways than one. Apart from their recent poor record against Wexford, Offaly were also at home and strong favourites to advance to the Leinster semi-final. That background to the game obviously put extra pressure on them, so to survive in those circumstances was encouraging and, naturally, they won’t fear Galway in ten days’ time.
It was a match which had little pattern to it. Offaly, facing the elements, looked slightly more cohesive earlier on as the teams shared six points, but then Wexford got a bit of a run going with Diarmuid Lyng, PJ Nolan and two Jack Guiney frees putting them 0-7 to 0-3 clear after 16 minutes. Liam Dunne’s charges had their tails up and it should have been much better for them only for Lyng to miss a sitter when shooting straight at Offaly goalkeeper James Dempsey.
Incredibly, Wexford could only manage a solitary point in the remaining opening-half action as Offaly gradually took over. Brian Carroll, playing effectively as a third midfielder, Shane Dooley (two) and Joe Bergin had drawn the teams level by the 33rd minute when the first goal of the match arrived. Bergin unhinged the opposition defence with a perfectly flighted delivery before Dooley finished with some authority from close range.
Trailing by three points at the break and with the wind to face, Wexford were in dire trouble. Though Eoin Moore and the experienced Darren Stamp were introduced, it was basically all one-way traffic in the third quarter. Young Paul Morris, who has potential, did manage to pick off a point but, at the other hand, Offaly were inflicting a lot of damage. Dooley (3) and Brendan Murphy were on target while Bergin’s ground stroke found the net in the 43rd minute.
The origin of Offaly’s second goal was controversial, however. An umpire pulled Wexford goalkeeper Eanna Murphy for stepping outside the square when taking a puck-out and from the ensuing throw-in on the 21 yard line, the ball broke favourably for Bergin to score. It was a marginal call in the first place and, possibly, cost Wexford the match. By the 57th minute, they had fallen 2-12 to 0-9 behind and now it just appeared a question of how much Offaly would win by.
Wexford hurling has fallen on really hard times, but they still have the capacity to produce successful comebacks out of nothing as had been the case in the league match between the teams earlier in the year. Offaly wouldn’t score again and became increasingly rattled as Wexford got their second wind. Jack Guiney blasted a 21 yard free to the net having thundered a first-half effort off the crossbar, while Rory Jacob (2) and Garret Sinnott registered points.
Offaly were hanging on desperately and when Guiney stood over another 21 yard free approaching injury time, their hearts must have been in their mouths, but the effort was saved. Perhaps, the Wexford full forward should have taken his point and they might have forced an equaliser subsequently, but he went for broke and it didn’t come off. It was a relieved Offaly camp afterwards, but they will gain confidence and momentum from this hard earned win.
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