Wednesday 21 August 2019

Opportunity knocking for Faithful after blitzing Sligo

Offaly 3-17 Sligo 0-15

Offaly forward Niall McNamee makes a flying leap to get to the ball ahead of Sligo’s Peter Laffey. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Offaly forward Niall McNamee makes a flying leap to get to the ball ahead of Sligo’s Peter Laffey. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Nine long years had passed since Offaly last made the third round of the qualifiers but with decent momentum at their backs after a series of encouraging displays, all eyes will be on this morning's draw.

Opportunity knocks for the Faithful with a handful of counties in the bowl which are plying their trade at a similar level to themselves, while one potential pairing jumps off the page.

Anton Sullivan of Offaly in action against Keelan Cawley of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Anton Sullivan of Offaly in action against Keelan Cawley of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

John Maughan has fostered stability since making his way to the midlands and a meeting with his native Mayo would get the juices flowing after Sligo were swatted aside with the minimum of fuss yesterday.

"I wouldn't mind (if we got Mayo)," Maughan said. "A lot of people would but I wouldn't mind. It would be lovely to get a home game against a high-quality team.

"That would bring out more in this Offaly team. They are good quality lads, they have bought into the ethos, their lifestyle is superb and they are training really, really well. They deserve a bit of credit.

"They are working extremely hard and are making the same commitment as the Mayo boys or any other team. They will grow from that performance. We are a Division 3 team and Offaly have been down in the lower echelons. This will bring a bit of momentum and confidence and that is exactly what they need."

Anton Sullivan of Offaly in action against Keelan Cawley of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Anton Sullivan of Offaly in action against Keelan Cawley of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The chance to be in the final 12 awaits and Offaly will be full of confidence having made light work of Sligo and totting up another impressive tally, although Maughan feels the best is still to come if they catch fire.

"Our scoring conversion rate is only 50 per cent so imagine if Offaly clicked into gear," the former Mayo boss said.

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Sligo came to Bord Na Móna O'Connor Park without a victory this season and got off to the worst possible start as goals inside 13 minutes from Niall McNamee and Dublin native Shane Horan put them on the back foot.

Building

It's been a difficult first season at the helm for former star Paul Taylor but he has no intention of walking away from the Yeats fold and his only concern is building for next year.

Niall McNamee of Offaly in action against Peter Laffey of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Niall McNamee of Offaly in action against Peter Laffey of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

They will do so from Division 4 with Taylor convinced that he has a promising group which can prosper and not let their 17-month wait for a competitive win affect their psyche.

"As far as I'm concerned, this group is going to be successful yet and we need to build on the work that has been done this year. Yes, we didn't have a good year but there's a lot of work being done," Taylor said.

"There'll be no decision from me; as far as I'm concerned I'm only starting. This is a building process. They do understand now what it takes, we've taken steps to the level that we need to get to and we'll continue that.

"You try to not look at the past. It's the elephant in the room (their wait for a win) but we move forward like we have all the time and we'll continue to build on the good stuff that we have done this year because it doesn't just happen in a year."

David Dempsey of Offaly in action against Mickey Gordon of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
David Dempsey of Offaly in action against Mickey Gordon of Sligo. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

There was only one team in it in the early exchanges as the home side flew out of the traps with McNamee firing to the Sligo net on ten minutes after collecting a high delivery from Peter Cunningham and shooting on sight.

Three minutes later, the onion bag was bulging again as Horan - who has made a sizeable impact since transferring to Offaly this season - palmed past Eamon Kilgannon following a sweeping team move (2-3 to 0-2).

It looked like Maughan's men might pull clear and put the game to bed but Paddy O'Connor led the charge for Sligo and was unlucky to be denied a goal soon after following a fine save by Faithful 'keeper Paddy Dunican.

The visitors had gained a foothold with captain Niall Murphy always dangerous in attack and they finished the half with a flourish to go in five down at the break, 2-8 to 0-9, despite playing against a decent breeze.

The opening minutes of the second half were always going to be crucial but Offaly shut off any thoughts of a comeback with McNamee landing his second goal - another palmed effort - to kill the contest after midfielder Eoin Carroll did all the donkey work.

Three further points followed - including the third pointed free by Dunican from distance - before Sligo eventually got off the mark for the half in the 54th minute through substitute Barry Gorman.

It was nip and tuck from there to the finish but Offaly were always in control as they booked their place in the third-round draw while Sligo's frustrations manifested in the injury-time dismissal of David Quinn.

SCORERS - Offaly: N McNamee 2-2 (1f); S Horan 1-1; B Allen 0-4 (1f); P Dunican 0-3f; C Mangan 0-2; P Cunningham, A Sullivan, E Carroll, N Darby, D Dempsey 0-1 each. Sligo: N Murphy 0-4 (1f); P O'Connor, S Carrabine (2f), D Cummins, P Hughes 0-2 each; B Gorman, D Quinn, P Kilcoyne 0-1 each.

OFFALY - P Dunican 7; D Hogan 7, E Rigney 6, D Dempsey 7; C Donohoe 7, J Moloney 6, N Darby 6; E Carroll 8, P Cunningham 7; S Horan 7, A Sullivan 6, C Mangan 8; B Allen 7, N McNamee 7, R McNamee 5. Subs: M Abbott 6 for R McNamee (51), P McConway 6 for Sullivan (63), J O'Connor for Mangan (65), S Tierney for McNamee (69), C Horan for Hogan (71), N Bracken for Horan (73).

SLIGO - E Kilgannon 6; P McNamara 6, P Laffey 6, N Mullen 6; D Cummins 7, K Cawley 6, G O'Kelly-Lynch 6; A McIntyre 6, P Kilcoyne 6; K McKenna 5, P O'Connor 7, Mickey Gordon 6; S Carrabine 6, P Hughes 7, N Murphy 7. Subs: N Ewing 7 for K McKenna (BC, 10), D Quinn for O'Connor (30 blood sub), O'Connor for Quinn (31), B Gorman 6 for Mickey Gordon (48), JF Carr 6 for O'Kelly-Lynch (51), L Nicholson 6 for McIntyre (57), D Quinn 5 for O'Connor (62), B McGowan for Carrabine (72).

REF - B Cawley (Kildare)

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