Friday 20 April 2018

Offaly boss McDonnell calls for qualifier seeding system after Tyrone hiding

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

GIVEN that two of Tyrone's All-Irelands came via the scenic route, Mickey Harte disagreed when it was suggested that this midlands massacre was the sort of result that indicates the qualifiers have run their course.

GIVEN that two of Tyrone's All-Irelands came via the scenic route, Mickey Harte disagreed when it was suggested that this midlands massacre was the sort of result that indicates the qualifiers have run their course.

"I don't think so, it's not every day you get on a roll like we did and it is a long time since we got on that kind of a roll," he said after his side had trounced Offaly in the first round.

"The qualifiers are all about the possibility of a giantkilling act," he insisted. "Offaly have been playing in Division 4 and we've been in Division 1 but we knew that anything was possible."

But his crestfallen counterpart admitted that slaughters of this sort simply can't go on.

"Something has got to be done, there's no doubt about that," Offaly manager Emmet McDonnell sighed. "Maybe a (qualifier) seeding system has to come into play.


"We'd have felt we could compete with a lot of teams in Round 1 and indeed even Round 2, but Tyrone are just too strong and experienced and the fact that they were in Round 1 doesn't make sense," he added.

"They came within a point of Dublin in the Division 1 final and everyone's talking about Dublin at the moment. Tyrone are just a phenomenal outfit."

Even shorn of several marquee players, including Stephen O'Neill, the Red Hands looked powerful, fit and hungry in a muggy Tullamore on Saturday but judgement must be reserved due to the paucity of the opposition.

Between internal disciplinary problems, injuries and defections to America, beaten Division 4 finalists Offaly were without eight of their league squad and a possible five starters, with Daithi Brady's broken hand, picked up in training midweek, the final blow.

They started with three of last year's minors but the rest of their team-mates also looked like boys against men as Tyrone repeatedly stripped them in the tackle and ran riot up front.

With Niall Morgan out and Joe McMahon not able to start, Sean Cavanagh stepped up for free-taking duty and was superb.

The only one of their forwards not to score was Martin Penrose who still made a huge contribution. Debutants Ciaran McGinley and Danny McBride were solid and Conor Clarke roamed forward to score two points from play.

Peter Harte, returned to centre-back, had a quiet day but Tyrone's standout was Darren McCurry.

The stylish Edendork left-footer clipped over four from play to kick-start his 0-8 (3fs) contribution, seven of it by half-time.

"To look at him playing you'd know he doesn't lack confidence but he has the ability to back up that confidence," Harte reflected smiling. "We would be very fond of what he can offer."

Ronan O'Neill, who had only buried his grandmother that morning, scored 1-2 off the bench – including their 61st-minute goal – and Joe McMahon, used at half-back, and Kyle Coney also got valuable game-time.

Tyrone's players, who wore GPS packs, showed a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal as they wasted a handful of chances. That's an area they must sharpen up for the bigger days.

But averaging a point every two minutes in the first half-hour showed excellent efficiency and accuracy and they led 0-15 to 0-1 at half-time, by which time both of Offaly's wing-backs were booked and they'd already used three subs.

It was 11 minutes before they even got their first shot off and, when Peter Cunningham eventually put them on the scoreboard with a 31st-minute free, that was only their third scoring chance.

Disgusted locals compared this landslide to an 18-point, five-goal drubbing by Down in 2008 but the circumstances were slightly different.

A quartet of county hurlers were called in to make up their numbers and, like fellow subs Ruari Allen, Padraig Bracken and Ciaran Hurley, dual star Dan Currams improved things considerably when he arrived.

McDonnell stressed that the Kilcormac-Killoughey man had actually trained with them earlier in the year before a broken wrist put paid to his plans to double up.

Ken Casey made an impact when he moved outfield in the second half but they were still chasing mercury.

First-year boss McDonnell refused to use their personnel crisis as an excuse and didn't blame the players who'd gone to America but did outline the problems that the lure of summer dollars causes.

"It is very, very difficult when you go out of the first round of Leinster and there's big clubs in America offering big money to lads, that's really what it came down to," McDonnell said.

"You've a lot of lads unemployed and the big American clubs are coming in for them. It's come to Laois and Louth and other teams as well.

"We started off this season ranked 31st in the country, they only won one game last year," he added.

"This year we won three out of four in the O'Byrne Cup, five out of seven in the league and were competitive against Kildare in Croke Park. It's just that most teams will struggle against this Tyrone team."

Scorers – Tyrone: D McCurry 0-8 (3fs), S Cavanagh 0-6 (5fs), R O'Neill 1-2, Matthew Donnelly 0-3, C Clarke, Mark Donnelly and C McAliskey 0-2 each, C McGinley 0-1, K Coney 0-1(f).

Offaly: K Casey 0-4 (2fs), B Darby, P Cunningham, P Bracken and C Hurley 0-1 each.

Tyrone – P McConnell 7; R McKenna 7, D McBride 8, C McCarron 7; C Clarke 8, P Harte 6, C Gormley 7; C Cavanagh 6, S Cavanagh 8; Matthew Donnelly 8, Mark Donnelly 7, C McGinley 7; D McCurry 9, M Penrose 7, C McAliskey 7. Subs: Joe McMahon 6 for C Cavanagh (h-t), R O'Neill 8 for McAliskey (50), A Cassidy 7 for Clarke (58), K Coney 8 for Penrose (60), P Kane 6 for Matt Donnelly (64).

Offaly - A Mulhall 7; B Darby 8, P McConway 6, S Sullivan 7; E Carroll 7, D Kelly 5, D Hanlon 5; A McNamee 5, J Brickland 5; G Guilfoyle 7, P Cunningham 5, N Darby 7; D Corbett 5, N McNamee (capt) 5, K Casey 8. Subs: P Bracken 7 for Brickland (15), C Hurley 7 for Guilfoyle (inj, 24), D Currams 7 for Kelly (26), R Allen 7 for A McNamee (39), W Mulhall 5 for Carroll (48).

REF – D Coldrick (Meath).

Irish Independent

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