SUMMER time on the clock, but the livin' sure wasn't easy for either Offaly or Wexford right to the finish of this tense and exciting relegation battle in Tullamore yesterday.
And when the dust settled, Offaly, reduced to 14 men after Colin Egan got his marching orders in the 62nd minute for a second yellow card, had snatched victory in dramatic fashion.
Just a minute before the end of normal time, the teams were level for the ninth time when Wexford's PJ Nolan slotted over a point. But referee Anthony Stapleton allotted two extra minutes and in that dying phase, Offaly skipper Shane Dooley slammed the survival door in Wexford's face.
The margins were so slender. In one instant, Wexford's Harry Kehoe was twisting and turning, desperately seeking a yard or two of space in which to launch the sliothair downfield. Next moment, he was was penalised for over-carrying. Free to Offaly. Dooley, 100 metres away from the Wexford goal, stepped up and amazingly scored the point.
And from the resulting puck-out, Conor Mahon was fouled. Dooley again was entrusted with the free, this time a 'mere' 70 metres out, and yes, he scored again. Almost immediately the final whistle blew to leave Offaly with a glimmer of hope of survival, and Wexford staring into the abyss.
This was no classic, but the crowd of around 2,000 got value for their money. Dooley with 1-10 -- eight from frees and one '65' -- takes the kudos but Offaly had sterling performances from 'keeper James Dempsey, defenders David Kennedy, Rory Hanniffy, Derek Morkan, and forwards Joe Bergin, Derek Molloy and Ger Healion.
Molloy, who has battled injury problems for the last 18 months, was a real 'springer' and justified his selection by scoring 1-1.
Wexford's 'keeper Noel Carton made a couple of key saves, while Matthew O'Hanlon, Keith Rossiter, Darren Stamp, David Redmond, PJ Nolan, Jim Berry and Stephen Banville made notable contributions.
The goals -- two for Offaly and one for Wexford -- had a big bearing on the game. Wexford were three points ahead a minute from the end of normal time in the first half -- 0-11 to 0-8 -- and yet went in to the interval two points down.
A Dooley goal from an opening forged by the battling Joe Bergin put the sides level and in injury-time, Dooley scored two points from frees to leave the half-time score 1-10 to 0-11.
Wexford boss Colm Bonnar said: "At 10-7 we were on the attack to go 11-7 up and the attack broke down. The next thing they come down, they get a goal and manage to get another three points and ultimately that was the difference."
His team seemed to have overcome those setbacks when they opened up the second half with a wave of attacks which yielded a point and a goal from Jim Berry within three minutes of the restart.
But typical of never-say-die Offaly, they hit back with a 41st-minute goal by Molloy and it was nip and tuck for the rest of the half.
Wexford's wide count of 11, including a few from scoreable positions late on, cost them, but Offaly deserve credit for the pressure they put on the opposing attacks in the last few minutes.
Offaly boss Joe Dooley now looks forward to next Sunday's home match with Waterford.
"We're delighted with this win. It gives us hope. Waterford are probably the third best team in the country and they will have the De La Salle lads back. We will take confidence from today and look forward to it," he said.
Man of the Match: S Dooley (Offaly)
Scorers -- Offaly: S Dooley 1-10 (8f, 1'65'), D Molloy 1-1, J Bergin 0-2, C Egan, G Healion 0-1 each. Wexford: J Berry 1-4 (4f), D Redmond, PJ Nolan, R Jacob 0-3 each, S Banville, H Kehoe, P Roche (f) 0-1 each.
Offaly -- J Dempsey 7; S Egan 7, D Kenny 8 , D Franks 7; M Verney 7 , R Hanniffy 8, D Morkan 8; C Mahon 7, D Hayden 7 ; B Carroll 6 , J Bergin 7, D Molloy 8 ; D Currams (inj), G Healion 7, S Dooley 9 . Subs: C Egan 7 for D Currams (11); M Cordial 6 for B Carroll (64); J Mulrooney for D Molloy (70).
Wexford -- N Carton 7; P Roche 7, M O'Hanlon 7, K Rossiter 7; L Prendergast 7, D Stamp 7, C Kenny 7; D Redmond 8, H Kehoe 7; PJ Nolan 8, E Quigley 6, S Banville 7; R Jacob 7 , T Waters 7, J Berry 8. Subs: C Farrell 6 for E Quigley (48); B Doyle 6 for T Waters (54); M Jacob 6 for S Banville (64)
REF -- A Stapleton (Laois).