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Cribbin has Offaly standing tall for 'underdogs' tie

REMEMBER the TG4 programme 'The Underdogs'? Well, there's a live event that qualifies for that tag in the Gaelic Grounds today, when Limerick footballers host Offaly in round two of the All-Ireland qualifier series.

Nobody expects to see either team at Croke Park in September and the match could get lost in the forest of finals and qualifiers that make this a busy weekend in football and hurling.

But taken on its own merits, the Limerick versus Offaly game, which precedes Cork and Galway in the hurling qualifiers, has the makings of a competitive and intriguing contest.

Offaly boss Tom Cribbin, by his own admission, knew that "my obituary and probably five or six other lads" were just waiting to be written prior to the Faithful County's recent qualifier against Monaghan.

The wounds ran deep after an opening defeat to Wexford and Cribbin (right) and the footballers were under fire. Monaghan, however, caught an unexpected backlash and while he might have been tempted to crow after that result, Kildare native Cribbin preferred to focus on the reasons for redemption within the camp.

"We collapsed mentally with 10 minutes to go against Wexford and we had to look at that," he said. "That was a bigger motivating factor than anything anyone could say or do to us. We had to stand up for ourselves."

A 1-18 to 1-10 win over the overwhelming pre-match favourites at O'Connor Park turned Offaly's season around and they'll need more of the same against Limerick.

Anything less this time, and they could struggle, despite Treaty County boss Maurice Horan having to cope without five senior players. The clash with the hurlers' commitment against Antrim means that Stephen Lucey and Mark O'Riordan go North, while Jim O'Donovan is out with a back injury, Eoin Joy has a hamstring problem and John Galvin is a long-term loss due to a cruciate injury.

Horan has called in former county full-back Tommy Stack to the panel. Stack hasn't played for Limerick for six years, but is reported to be in good form for his club Dromcollogher-Broadford.

He also performed well in a recent challenge against Waterford. Limerick scored 4-10 in the first half and Cribbin said that the Treaty side looks to be moving well. The home side were well beaten by Kerry in their Munster semi-final, so they have plenty of incentive today.

Offaly will be favourites, but that should not worry the Faithful players. There is plenty of experience in the side, including Ciaran McManus, Niall McNamee, Joe Quinn and Karol Slattery and plenty of energy too.

Form goes out the window in what is a rare championship meeting between these counties. Their last qualifier clash was in 2002 when they met in round two and Limerick won by 3-9 to 2-7 at the Gaelic Grounds.

Their most recent clash was in Division 3 of the league last February, when Offaly won by 2-10 to 1-12.

Irish Independent