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Offaly young guns on target to give Wallace early boost

Offaly 3-16 Wexford 0-9

Offaly’s Anton Sullivan attempts to hold on to Wexford’s Martin O’Connor during Saturday’s O’Byrne Cup clash at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Offaly’s Anton Sullivan attempts to hold on to Wexford’s Martin O’Connor during Saturday’s O’Byrne Cup clash at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Brian Lowry

Offaly hit the ground running in the Bord Na Móna O'Byrne Cup when they inflicted a 16-point defeat on Wexford.

The home side were in control right the way through and eased to victory with their three goals coming in the opening 22 minutes.

Debutants Jordan Hayes (two) and 2017 minor star Cian Johnson found the net for the Faithful County as they wasted little time is setting out their stall for the year.

New manager Stephen Wallace was obviously happy to start his tenure with a win but he wasn't getting carried away.

"It was great to get off to a winning start. It was a jump into the unknown for me really. The lads have shown great commitment and have trained hard but until you actually go out and play a competitive game, you don't know what you are going to get," he said.

Develop

Offaly's Daithí Brady in action against Wexford's Mick Furlong. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Offaly's Daithí Brady in action against Wexford's Mick Furlong. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"We have a very young team and that has been well-documented. My belief is to bring young players through and develop them. It is a long year yet but a win on day one is great."

Over the course of the 70 minutes, seven players that featured in Offaly's run to the 2017 Leinster U-21 final saw action while the much talked-about Johnson from the Ferbane club capped his debut with a haul of 1-3.

Offaly led 3-5 to 0-5 at the break with Hayes firing the first of his goals in the 12th minute to put them 1-2 to 0-2 ahead. Johnson then produced a brilliant finish on 20 minutes to make it 2-3 to 0-3 before Hayes hit Offaly's third goal on 22 minutes.

Wexford needed something to spark them into life but it just didn't happen for them with Offaly continuing to turn the screw with the game all but over with a half an hour to play as Wallace's troops led by 3-8 to 0-5.

Wexford's Mark Rossiter in action against Offaly's Declan Hogan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Wexford's Mark Rossiter in action against Offaly's Declan Hogan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Anton Sullivan had an impressive outing at centre-forward, while newcomer Craig Dunne in the middle of the field also stood out.

Next up for Offaly is a trip to Parnell Park on Wednesday night to take on Dublin but Wallace is clear on what their goals are and what they are working towards.

"The lads are a super bunch. They want to improve. The aim is to get Offaly out of Division 3. We are here to set our standards high.

"Whether that happens this year remains to be seen but that is the aim anyway - to get these guys playing in Division 2 and at a higher level."

Getting to Division 2 will be a big ask with an extremely difficult run of games while also being down the services of some key players due to injuries and retirements.

Brian Darby and Niall McNamee have retired while two key men from last year - Peter Cunningham and Eoin Carroll - are recovering from injury while last year's top scorer Nigel Dunne didn't feature in Saturday's game either.

"In terms of the draw, you couldn't have asked for a worse draw. Two trips to the North in the first three games and then the fourth game against the favourites for the league, Armagh, in Tullamore," added Wallace.

"These lads are getting better every week. Billy Sheehan is a fabulous coach and they are listening to him and taking it all in."

SCORERS - Offaly: J Hayes 2-0, C Johnson 1-3, B Allen 0-6 (2f), S Doyle 0-4 (2f), J O'Connor, B O'Dea and S Tierney 0-1 each. Wexford: D Shanley 0-3 (3f), D Holmes 0-2, G Malone, M Rossiter, C Devereux, C Carty 0-1 each.

OFFALY - P Dunican; D Brady, J Lalor, D Hogan; D Dempsey, S Pender, C Donohue; C Dunne, S Nally; J Hayes, A Sullivan, M Brazil; B Allen, C Johnson, S Doyle. Subs: B O' Dea for Hayes (h-t), J O'Connor for Brazil (h-t), B Rohan for Dunican (43), G Spollen for Nally (48), M Brazil for Sullivan (51), S Tierney for Johnson (51), J Egan for Brady (55), J Hayes for Donohue (57).

WEXFORD - M Doyle; J Rossiter, M O'Neill, M O'Connor; M Furlong, C Carty, G Malone; S Byrne, N Doyle; J Stafford, D Shanley, D Holmes; C McCabe, M Rossiter, C Devereux. Subs: D Lyons for Byrne (h-t), P Curtis for Stafford (h-t), R Frayne for Holmes (43), G Sheehan for O'Connor (43), C Swaine for M Doyle (48), A Nolan for O'Neill (48), B O'Connor for M Rossiter (51), D Pepper for Devereux (59m), Q Sanders for Malone (61), D Furlong for Shanley (61).

Ref - N Ward (Westmeath)

Irish Independent

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