independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Lilywhites have too much muscle for weak Faithful

OFFALY football needs a root-and-branch overhaul if the county is to get back to past glories, and yesterday at O'Moore Park the short-term effort at recovery fell very far short.

Manager Tom Coffey did his best in the eight weeks that were available to him after the resignation of former boss Gerry Cooney following a league campaign that ended in relegation to Division 4.

Coffey pushed his players as hard as he could and as hard as he dared in that two months and, in fairness, they responded.

By comparison with Kildare's year-on-year physical progression under Kieran McGeeney, it was akin to sticking your finger in the dam and hoping the floods wouldn't overwhelm you.

That said, the Offaly lads were up for the battle and made quite a fight of it in the first half, but the second half was dominated all over the park by Kildare.

For an opening joust in the 2012 championship, it was a sound display from the Lilies, but McGeeney knows they will need more against Meath in the semi-final on July 1.

"We did well, 19 scores, eight different scorers from play. We can be happy with it but there's loads of room for improvement," said the Kildare boss.

Inevitably, the Seanie Johnston affair came up for discussion, and McGeeney smiled wryly. It's a subject he is fed up with, and said: "Seanie is a good footballer, there's no doubt about that. He was told he wasn't wanted and he moved somewhere else.

"He's there to play football and that's my thing. People can like me or loathe me for it. You play whoever's available to you and that's it.

"I'm not trying to bring down the GAA, contrary to popular opinion. You don't need to wear black armbands out there because we're destroying the ethos of the GAA.

"They make good headlines for ye but for me, and most people involved in the GAA, we're all fed up of it at the minute and we all want to see what happens on the football field."

Offaly started in determined mode and Derek Kelly opened the scoring with a first-minute point. Unfortunately, by the 10th minute, the Faithful had completed their first-half tally, with scores by Niall Smith and Ken Casey taking them to 0-3.

Kildare had given Mick Foley the No 8 jersey but he predictably moved into full-back at the start, while they gave a SFC debut to Eoin Doyle in attack.

Bustle

The Lilies were all hustle and bustle and passing movements, but Offaly defended from the front and it took Kildare some time to get into their stride.

They were level at 0-3 each after 15 minutes courtesy of a point by Padraig O'Neill and two by Mikey Conway from frees.

As the half wore on, you could almost hear the squeak of the screw turning on Offaly.

Slowly but surely, the mix of handpassing movements followed by the big high ball into the towering Tomas O'Connor began to pay dividends for Kildare.

They might have gone a goal ahead only for the crossbar, which got in the way of a close-range effort by Emmet Bolton after 24 minutes.

Despite kicking seven wides in that first half, Kildare had a five-point lead at 0-8 to 0-3 by the interval.

Offaly supporters raised a cheer for a first appearance of the season by star forward Niall McNamee, who came on as a sub just before the break.

Predictably, Kildare were first into their stride at the restart, with Derek Kelly popping over a point, but Alan McNamee nicked one back for Offaly in the 38th minute.

The white jerseys were like flies around a honey pot and the taste kept getting sweeter for them, although Offaly 'keeper Alan Mulhall denied them a goal with a couple of good saves in that second half.

Kildare kept popping over the scores. Ollie Lyons, John Doyle, Conway, James Kavanagh and O'Connor were the fulcrum of the raids into the Offaly half.

Shane O'Sullivan, Brian Darby, Alan McNamee and Richie Dalton did their best to stem the forward thrusts, while Ken Casey, Anton Sullivan and Niall McNamee did what they could to offer something up front for the home side.

McNamee has gone through a well-publicised challenge in his personal life, and he's clearly short of match fitness, but Coffey will hope he can play a role in the qualifiers.

"You can't fault the guys; they gave it everything. The last few weeks they were in bed early, the diet was 100pc, and they turned up and went through the pain barrier in training.

"But, you know, the conditioning of that Kildare team and the fitness level they're at is a credit to themselves, and Kieran McGeeney, and Kildare people," said Coffey.

"But, if you want to compete, you've got to get to that level and you've got to address it. And, at the minute, we've a lot of addressing to do in Offaly."

Scorers -- Kildare: M O'Flaherty 0-5 (4f, 1 '45'), J Doyle 0-4, O Lyons 0-3, E O'Flaherty 0-2, J Kavanagh, P O'Neill, R Kelly, A Smith, P Fogarty 0-1 each. Offaly: K Casey 0-3 (1f), D Kelly, N Smith, A McNamee 0-1 each.

Kildare -- S Connolly 7; H McGrillen 7, M Foley 7, P Kelly 7; M O'Flaherty 7, O Lyons 8, E Bolton 7; R Kelly 7, P O'Neill 7; J Doyle 8, E Doyle 7, E O'Flaherty 7; J Kavanagh 7, T O'Connor 7, M Conway 8. Subs: A Smith 7 for E Doyle (42), D Flynn 7 for R Kelly (54), P Fogarty 7 for J Kavanagh (56), D Earley for J Doyle (59), T O'Neill for M O'Flaherty (61).

Offaly -- A Mulhall 7; S Sullivan 6, J Moloney 6, S Pender 6; B Darby 6, M Brazil 6, E Rigney 6; A McNamee7, R Dalton 7; R Brady 6, D Kelly 6, N Smith 6; K Casey 7, G Guilfoyle 6, A Sullivan 6. Subs: N McNamee 6 for D Kelly (35), P Cunningham 6 for G Guilfoyle (48), D Hanlon 6 for J Moloney (57), N Dunne for K Casey (64), L Hiney for J Rigney (68).

Ref -- P O'Sullivan (Kerry)

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