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Claffey faces 12-week ban

TYRONE 1-11; OFFALY 1-4 THE football was poor, the result predictable and the sub-plot totally unexpected at Tullamore yesterday.

Thanks to a seven-point win, Tyrone continued their serene advance towards the Allianz League semi-finals while Offaly stay entrenched in the relegation mire.

The visitors now have eight points from five outings in Division 1A; Offaly a mere one point from a possible eight. It gets worse for the struggling midlanders talisman Vinny Claffey may now be facing a 12-week suspension arising from an out-of-character red card.

Amid a thicket of bodies, there was some confusion surrounding the exact nature of Claffey's transgression. However, referee Aidan Mangan had no such doubts and afterwards sources indicated that the Offaly full-forward had been dispatched for a kicking offence.

In that scenario, Claffey is facing a 12-week ban that would run into early June and rule him out of Offaly's championship opener against either Wicklow or Laois on May 26. Local scribes couldn't recall any previous sending-off in a distinguished inter-county career. Privately, Offaly sources were less-than-enamoured with Mangan's overall handling of the game but they could hardly offer this as an excuse for a ramshackle second half performance.

Sometimes, even the stats don't lie. With the elements, Offaly hit seven wides and a paltry two points: one sublime early score from Claffey and a late point of dubious consolation value from John Hurst.

They seemed to possess a deadball death-wish, with Claffey, John O'Neill and Pascal Kellaghan all missing scorable frees. With 12 wides and a squandered penalty from Peter Canavan, Tyrone were no model of economy either; but the gulf in quality was still glaringly apparent.

With the exception of Claffey, none of the Offaly forwards scored from play. At midfield, Cormac McAnallen was the dominant force while, up front, the visitors carried a more varied threat from Canavan, Ger Cavlan and sub Eoin Mulligan.

"It was just pure graft under the conditions," surmised Tyrone joint-manager Art McRory.

"We were playing on the back foot all the time," admitted Offaly boss Padraig Nolan, who rated it their "most disappointing" performance of the campaign.

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Yet at half-time, the portents weren't quite so gloomy. Tyrone led by 0-8 to 1-2, a fragile lead given the wind-factor. Inspired by Canavan, the visitors were already four points up after 11 minutes only to be rocked by a brilliant piece of opportunism from Claffey two minutes later. Basil Malone's speculative delivery looked to be covered, but Colin Holmes spilled it and his marker charged forward to unleash a rising thunderbolt past Peter Ward.

Fine points by Cavlan and Mulligan provided some breathing space, but then Offaly 'keeper Padraic Kelly came into his own. In first half injury time he denied Mulligan at point-blank range; within 90 seconds of the restart, he dived to repel a less-than-perfect Canavan spot kick.

Almost immediately, Claffey's wonder point reduced the margin to two points and the 'comeback' promptly ended as the visitors crept four points ahead.

After Claffey's dismissal came the coup de grace. Kelly made another fine stop from Sean Cavanagh only for Mulligan to point on the rebound. In the 64th minute, Cavlan's diagonal ball found the unmarked Canavan, who capitalised on the 'keeper's suspect positioning with a clinical finish.

MAN OF THE MATCH P Canavan (Tyrone).

SCORERS Tyrone: P Canavan 1-5 (4f), E Mulligan 0-2, S O'Neill 0-2f, C McAnallen, G Cavlan 0-1 each. Offaly: V Claffey 1-1, D Ryan 0-2f, J Hurst 0-1.

TYRONE P Ward; C Gormley, C Holmes, B Robinson; R McMenamin, C Gourley, C Meenagh; C McAnallen, J Gormley; B Dooher, K Hughes, G Cavlan; E McGinley, S O'Neill, P Canavan. Subs: P Jordan for McMenamin (17), E Mulligan for McGinley (26), S Cavanagh for J Gormley (56), McGinley for O'Neill (65).

OFFALY P Kelly; B Mooney, C Daly, K Slattery; J Hurst, G Rafferty, J Kenny; J Grennan, A McNamee; D Ryan, J Greene, B Malone; D Claffey, V Claffey, P Kellaghan. Subs: C Quinn for Malone (ht), J O'Neill for Greene (46), S Grennan for Ryan (52), F McEvoy for Kellaghan (61), C Grennan for D Claffey (67).

REF A Mangan (Kerry).

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