Connor puts seal on stirring Offaly fightback
TWO late goals gave Offaly a dramatic win in a keenly-contested game in O'Connor Park.
Trailing by 0-11 to 0-10 with seven minutes left, Offaly were staring a third devastating defeat in the face but a punched goal by defender Sean Pender after a cross ball from sub Ken Casey gave them the initiative.
Casey followed up immediately with a point, and when Brian Connor struck a stunning second goal with four minutes left after a great surge forward by the lightning-quick wing-forward Graham Guilfoyle, Offaly had enough done to keep their promotion hopes on track.
Carlow kept plugging away to the end and a goal from John Murphy inside the last minute meant that it went right down to the wire, but they couldn't get in for an equalising goal as a relieved Offaly held on.
It was a close-run thing in a game in which both sides enjoyed extended periods of dominance and both kicked more than their share of bad wides.
Playing against the wind in the first half, Offaly were the better side and were good value for their 0-6 to 0-4 interval lead.
Offaly went four points clear early in the second half, but with Brendan Murphy leading the charge, Carlow took complete control.
The odds were in their favour when they got their noses in front near the end but they couldn't close out the deal and they finished with 14 men when Ray Walker received a second yellow card in injury-time.
Man of the match: Brendan Murphy (Carlow)
SCORERS: Offaly: J Maher 0-4 (3f), B Connor, S Pender 1-0 each, W Mulhall 0-2, A Mulhall (f), B Darby, G Guilfoyle, N McNamee, K Casey 0-1 each. Carlow: D Foley (1f), Brendan Murphy, Brian Murphy (3f) 0-3 each, J Murphy 1-0, P Reid, E Ruth 0-1 each.
OFFALY – A Mulhall 7; B Darby 7, P McConway 7, S Sullivan 7; E Carroll 7, S Pender 7, E Rigney 7; M Brazil 7, A McNamee 7; G Guilfoyle 7, R Dalton 7, W Mulhall 7; J Maher 7, B Connor 7, R Allen 7. Subs: N McNamee 7 for Maher (51), R Brady 7 for Allen (54), K Casey 7 for W Mulhall (59), N Darby 7 for Guilfoyle (69).
CARLOW – T O'Reilly 7; C Lawler 7, C Mernagh 7, B Kavanagh 7; K Nolan 7, S Redmond 7, M Doyle 7; D Foley 7, J Murphy 7; R Walker 7, P Reid 7, E Ruth 7; Brian Murphy 7, Brendan Murphy 9, W Minchin 7. Subs: S Gannon 7 for Minchin (57), S Murphy 7 for Reid (70), C Moran for Ruth (70), K Jackson for J Murphy (71).
Ref – A Nolan (Wicklow)