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Casey brace gets Cooney off to flying start with Faithful


Offaly's Alan Mulhall
challenges Westmeath's
Kieran Sheridan

Offaly's Alan Mulhall challenges Westmeath's Kieran Sheridan

Offaly's Alan Mulhall challenges Westmeath's Kieran Sheridan

REMOTE control management worked well for new Offaly boss Gerry Cooney, who was en route to Namibia while the Faithful County opened 2012 with an O'Byrne Cup win over Westmeath.

Cooney had set up the trip some months ago before he got the Offaly job. It's part-holiday, partly an ongoing charity commitment he has with a school in Namibia, and the Offaly County Board were aware of his arrangements before finalising his appointment.

In his absence, Clara's James Stewart was in charge, ironically making it two men from the same town in charge of the respective teams, as Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan also hails from the Offaly village.

Victory gives Offaly an away fixture with Kildare next Sunday. Cooney will still be in Africa, but he will be in regular contact with his selectors.

"He was like a child going away and leaving the sweets behind him, so he will be happy when I give him a ring to tell him," said Stewart. "We are only a week back training and we needed to see the lads put in a decent effort and commitment and that's what we got, regardless of the result, but it is nice to get the result as well."

Westmeath fielded a team that contained only three of the side which faced Louth in the opening league match of 2011 and with Denis Glennon and Darragh Daly pulling up in the warm-up, the young side had hardly broken sweat before they were 2-2 down with just nine minutes played.

Big Alan Mulhall, the Offaly goalie for the last couple of seasons, got a run at full-forward and gave his marker, debutant Kieran Sheridan, a torrid opening to his senior career.

Willie Mulhall, cousin of Alan, opened the scoring with a point after five minutes and within 60 seconds Alan grabbed possession, held off defender Sheridan and planted the ball in the net.

Three minutes later, a long ball forward by Brian Darby exposed the Westmeath defence, and corner-forward Ken Casey slammed in goal No 2.

Westmeath's first point came in the 14th minute when Callum McCormack finished off a a four-man passing move. Nigel Dunne got their second after 18 minutes.

Between those two scores came the first of Westmeath's squandered goal chances. Corner-forward John Egan had the Offaly goal at his mercy, but sent the ball wide.

Three more similar errors by forwards from excellent goal-scoring situations negated much of the hard work and effort by Westmeath. They went in at half-time 2-4 to 0-5 behind, but started the second half with determina- tion and reduced the deficit to only three points thanks to Trevor English and Callum McCormack.

McCormack, wearing the No 11 jersey, grafted hard in Offaly territory throughout that second half and was his side's leading scorer with four points.

Offaly's generally solid defensive screen prevented further damage, despite the threat posed by Westmeath's Glennon who was sprung from standby, midway through the half.

The big man did all he could, but another mini-scoring blitz by Mulhall and Casey just 15 minutes from the end killed off Westmeath hopes of a revival.

Mulhall fired over a point from a free 40 metres out and Casey notched up his second, and Offaly's third goal.

Richie Dalton finished the scoring with a point four minutes from the finish. It's early days for both sides, but the effort on a heavy pitch by both teams was commendable.

Scorers -- Offaly: K Casey 2-0, A Mulhall 1-1 (0-1f), W Mulhall 0-3, N Dunne, R Dalton 0-1 each. Westmeath: C McCormack 0-4, K Martin (1f), P Sheridan, T English 0-1 each.

Offaly -- K Meehan; J Gallagher, P McConway, S Pender; J Keane, B Darby, L Hiney; R Dalton, R Brady; G Guilfoyle, N Dunne, A Keenaghan; W Mulhall, A Mulhall, K Casey. Subs: F Daly for N Guilfoyle (28), N Smith for J Keane (48), D Currams for N Dunne (48), B Hanamy for A Mulhall (68), D Kelly for K Casey (69).

Westmeath -- D Quinn; M Dalton, K Sheridan, T Warburton; M Curley, M Ennis, K Maguire; T English, A Finnan; K Martin, C McCormack, P Sheridan; J Egan, D Mullen, M Gorman. Subs: D McDermott for T Warburton (h-t), D Glennon for D Mullen (48), D McNicholas for J Egan (53), W Coyne for M Gorman (65), D Gavin for P Sheridan (68).

Ref -- J Hickey (Carlow)

Irish Independent