Cribbin thrilled as Offaly prove point
Offaly 1-18 Monaghan 1-10
HUBBLE, bubble, toil and trouble -- that appeared to be the recipe for Offaly GAA, particularly the footballers in the last few weeks.
Now, the pall of gloom has lifted considerably after Tom Cribbin's men put Monaghan to the sword at O'Connor Park, Tullamore and regained a huge amount of self-respect.
The 14-point defeat to Wexford four weeks ago really hurt.
And then came the blow-up over use of the Tullamore pitch for training by the hurlers, with the footballers getting caught in the controversy by suggestions that they weren't dedicated enough and that some were too fond of a drink.
Saturday night on a beautifully manicured pitch against Monaghan was a different story and Offaly ran the negativity out of their systems.
Manager Cribbin commented: "We knew we let ourselves down against Wexford. We made so many chances that day and if we had taken half of them early on, it would have been a different story.
"We'd a lot to make up to ourselves, and nobody else, just to prove that we can finish out games and that we're going in the right direction. Sometimes when you get a right kick in the arse it makes you stand up and be counted.
"Every single man ran themselves off the park. Monaghan never gave up. They kept coming and coming and coming, but we stopped them. The tackling was absolutely brilliant."
Ciaran McManus, scorer of four important points, at times looked spent in the second half -- but then the ball would arrive and he'd race onto it and drive forward like a young 'un.
Skipper Niall McNamee with 1-4 and McManus were a constant threat to the hard-pressed and overworked Monaghan defence, and were ably backed up by Ross Brady, Ken Casey, and Bernard Allen, who did a huge amount of work tracking back and then launching themselves forward in support up front.
Niall Darby wore the No 12 jersey but spent most of the game deep in defence marking Monaghan's No 10 Mark Downey. Darby did a sterling job in helping block the routes to the Offaly backline.
The number of times McManus and McNamee took the ball under pressure, turned and headed for goal was embarrassing for the Monaghan defenders.
The visitors, who had never played Offaly in the championship before, and who had a record of one win, four defeats and three draws in league fare against the Faithful County since 1985, made the game very difficult for themselves.
Monaghan kept making errors such as running into cul-de-sacs of defenders, kicking the ball more in hope than confidence, and getting caught with turnovers.
The Offaly goal was a case in point. Monaghan captain Dick Clerkin sallied forward but ran into a brick wall called Karol Slattery.
The ball broke from their clash, Offaly midfielder Richie Dalton raced onto it, and the counter-attack ended with McNamee crashing the ball to the net. That made it 1-3 to 0-1, and Dalton added a point almost immediately.
Credit to the Farney men for rallying to the cause for the last 10 minutes of the first half and it started with their 27th-minute goal by 19-year-old Chris McGuinness.
McGuinness, a minor last year who came off the bench against Tyrone in the last outing, raced from the corner across the face of the Offaly goal to grab a cute pass by Bernard O'Brien and get the goal.
Now it was Offaly 1-5, Monaghan 1-3, and within four minutes of hectic action by both teams, they were level at 1-6 each. Padraig Bracken for Offaly won a turnover from Monaghan's Clerkin to score a point, while Owen Duffy (two) and Neil McAdam scored points for Monaghan.
In injury-time Offaly edged ahead again, thanks to points by Stephen Lonergan and McManus, with the latter defying huge pressure from Monaghan full-back Kieran Duffy to score, making it 1-8 to 1-6 at half-time.
The first 10 minutes of the second half effectively decided the match.
It was blitzkrieg time, and McNamee with two points, McManus two more from frees, and Niall Darby accelerated Offaly into the clear to lead by 1-13 to 1-6.
There was simply no stopping Offaly then. Beyond little flurries of defiance from Monaghan, the bulk of possession belonged to the home side who used it well.
"Monaghan are a quality side. We couldn't afford to let the tempo drop. It was a team effort. Maybe now people might give us a small bit of credit now and again -- particularly Joe Brolly," said McManus.
Monaghan boss Eamonn McEneaney was deeply disappointed. "We were very much off the pace in the second half. Today was the day when the lack of experience was found out. It is a young side, and they're building. That isn't a true reflection of what they're capable of," he said.
Scorers -- Offaly: N McNamee 1-4, C McManus 0-4 (3f), R Dalton 0-3, S Lonergan 0-2, K Casey, B Allen, N Darby, R Brady (f), D Egan 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McGuinness 1-0, P Finlay (2f), O Duffy, N McAdam, C McManus (1f) 0-2 each, B O'Brien, C Hanratty 0-1 each.
Offaly -- A Mulhall 7; B Darby 7, J Quinn 7, S Pender 7; S Lonergan 7, S Brady 7, K Slattery 7; R Dalton 7, N Smith 7; Ciaran McManus 8, R Brady 7, N Darby 7; B Allen 7, K Casey 7, N McNamee 8. Subs: P Bracken 6 for K Casey (51), S Ryan for K Slattery (63), D Egan for B Allen (63).
Monaghan -- M Keogh 6; C Galligan 5, K Duffy 5, D Morgan 5; O Duffy 6, D Hughes 6, N McAdam 7; O Lennon 6, D Clerkin 5; M Downey 5, B O'Brien 5, D McKenna 5; C McGuinness 6, P Finlay 6, C McManus. Subs: K Hughes 5 for D Clerkin (h-t), C Hanratty 5 for D McKenna (53), V Corey for M Downey (64), B McKenna for C McGuinness (64).
ReF -- S Doyle (Wexford).