Thursday 22 March 2018

Dooley has faith in Offaly to push Dubs all the way

OFFALY will politely stand aside and let the Dublin hurlers have an easy Allianz Hurling League Division 1 victory at Tullamore tomorrow. Yeah, right!

That scenario is as likely as Angela Merkel pleading with Enda Kenny to allow her bestow the 'European Economy of the Year' title on poor old Ireland.

They may have lost their opening two league matches, and they may have their forces depleted by injuries, but it's fair to assume that the team Joe Dooley sends into action will be no soft touch for the Dubs. At least, not if Joe has his way. The Offaly boss can't countenance the prospect of his men giving the same level of performance as they produced in losing by 1-24 to 1-10 to Galway in their last match.

There are two reasons for that: one is the embarrassment it would entail; and more importantly, a third successive defeat would plunge Offaly into a relegation battle.

"We were terrible against Galway. They were very strong all over the field and we just weren't able to cope. If we hurl like we did against them this Sunday, we'll be in trouble," Dooley reasoned.

"Obviously this is an important game for both sides. The Dubs are in the happy position of having taken three points out of a possible four in their first two matches.

"We're not nearly in as good a position. The only way we can look at it is that there are five games left in the league, Sunday's is one of them, and we have to give a good account of ourselves if we want to get anything out of it."

The Offaly cause wasn't helped against Galway when they had Cathal Parlon sent off for a second yellow card shortly before half-time, and on the day, Galway were not to be denied their win.

Offaly's opening match was also a tough assignment away to Cork. Only five points separated the sides on a 1-20 to 1-15 scoreline in favour of the Rebels, but that result was relatively easier to take.

"Cork always looked like winning that game, but we were never too far away from them. Galway was a different match altogether and now we're up against it the way the Dubs are playing," Dooley said.

Offaly's injury woes mean that Paul Cleary, James Rigney, Joe Brady, Derek Molloy and Brendan Murphy are unlikely to feature in the league.

Rory Hanniffy and Conor Mahon both played against Cork but missed the match against Galway due to injury and they are likely to return tomorrow.

Against that, David Kenny, who is working in London, will need a fitness check. Kenny had a recent knee operation and suffered some reaction to it in the Galway game.

Better news during the week was that ace scorer and team captain Shane Dooley has been cleared for action. Dooley was banned for a month following his dismissal when playing for University of Limerick in the Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final against Cork IT, but it doesn't apply to the NHL.

So, which Offaly will turn up tomorrow? The one which got blown away by Galway, or the one which caught the Dubs on the hop this time last year in similar circumstances?

Just 12 months ago Dublin rocked down to Tullamore in confident mood. They had lost to Waterford in their first match, but defeated Tipperary prior to playing Offaly and were showing some good form.

Meanwhile, Dooley's team had lost their opening two matches to Cork and Kilkenny. And yet, the Dubs left Tullamore with their tails between their legs after a 3-19 to 1-18 victory for Offaly.

There was a double bonus for the Faithful, as it stopped the rot and also gave them two of the only four points they got in last year's league campaign -- with four points eventually proving enough to retain Division 1 status.

Despite the good memories, Dooley (pictured left) is not taking too much comfort from that victory this time around.

"I don't know if we can take anything from that match that helps us this time," he said."Twelve months ago we would have had only seven or eight of the lads who will play in this match and Dublin appear to have strengthened their panel, so we know we're up against it.

"From the position we're in, a good league for us would be to stay in Division 1 and we'll do what we can to achieve that aim."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport