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Offaly will find it hard to keep the faith in Dublin den

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Dubs boss Jim Gavin

Dubs boss Jim Gavin

Dubs boss Jim Gavin

OFFALY'S fall from footballing grace, over the past decade and more, has been gradual yet painfully remorseful.

All of which helps to explain the words last Sunday of new manager Pat Flanagan: "We have to get belief into them. Offaly struggle a bit from a lack of self-belief."

One swallow never made a summer but what Flanagan had just witnessed won't do any harm in bolstering those fragile stocks of self-confidence … Offaly had just whipped their nearest and dearest rivals, Laois, by nine points.

Every new manager craves early momentum and the manner of this day-one victory in Tullamore, crowned by goals from Nigel Bracken and Bernard Allen, has ensured that Flanagan hits the ground running.

Now for the difficult part: avoiding the "one step forward, two steps back" peril attached to visiting Parnell Park.

Offaly fielded an experimental line-up last weekend but so, too, did Dublin. That is how you'd expect it in early January.

Of more significance is how those wannabes performed. Several fringe members of Jim Gavin's currently extended set-up, especially up front, failed to make a compelling case for inclusion against Maynooth … instead it was left to the more experienced likes of Dean Rock (despite a myriad of first half misses) and Eoghan O'Gara to carry the scoring burden.

However, the workaholic comeback performance of Naomh Mearnóg's Shane Carthy, in the half-forward line and more especially after switching to midfield, was a notable positive.

Tactically, the most intriguing facet was Dublin's first half tendency to keep one or more half-backs in situ - marking space - even while Maynooth 'forwards' veered back the pitch to flood their defence. At the same time, Denis Bastick was content to hold fort, spending most of the 40 minutes he was on the pitch calmly anchoring midfield.

Looking on from the press box, it appeared a deliberate ploy on the part of Dublin to suppress the more gung-ho counter-attacking instincts that ultimately contributed to their spectacular downfall against Donegal.

Afterwards, Gavin indicated that Stephen Cluxton and Rory O'Carroll could come back into the selection frame tonight. Whatever line-up he goes with, they will start as favourites (and rightly so) but a more convincing performance may well be required to stifle Offaly's early-January optimism.

VERDICT: Dublin

LAOIS v MAYNOOTH UNIVERSITY

(Portarlington, Tonight 7.30)

LOSING to Offaly is never good news for a Laois manager - but if it is to happen, the first Sunday in January is probably the best time for it. Still, Tomás Ó Flatharta will demand an immediate improvement (their first of only three second half points in Tullamore was 29 minutes in the making) and it should come tonight. Maynooth were game but limited against the Dubs, Barry Dardis providing a rare font of forward menace, and could suffer a midweek backlash here.

VERDICT: Laois


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