Physical side of the game has been pushed out, laments UCD boss
OFFALY 0-13 UCD 0-12
HONOUR was satisfied for both teams at the end of a brisk and lively match on day one of the O'Byrne Cup campaign at O'Connor Park.
Offaly gained a win -- just -- while UCD, who are gearing up for a Sigerson Cup challenge, ramped up their performance level in the second half and almost embarrassed the Faithful County.
The blood and thunder of the bigger competitive matches to come for both teams was lacking, which was reflected in the number of cards shown.
Referee Maurice Deegan showed a yellow to UCD's Oran Fitzpatrick just before half-time for a foul on Niall McNamee, and waved the dreaded new black card at UCD's Conor Downey in the 56th minute.
Deegan indicated the dismissal was for a foot-block on an Offaly defender, and Downey went off, with fellow Meath man Shane McEntee coming on as replacement.
That was all the 'new rules' drama on view.
UCD coach John Divilly expressed his disappointment at the dismissal, but his overall concern was the poor quality of his side's first-half showing.
Asked what he thought of the new rules and how they operated in the match, Divilly replied: "In general, not too bad, but the ball was there, our player went to toe-poke it on.
"It was a ridiculous decision but that's neither here nor there now. To me, anyway, the physicality has gone out of football in the last few years.
"You have to really mind yourself on the field now and you have to play so cutely because any sign of a little bit of physicality or a 50-50 ball, or even if it looks bad but it's not bad, the referees just blow straight away.
"But, look, I'm not complaining about it. Maurice (Deegan) did his job. Our job is to play football and what I'm happy about is the second half was really good."
Indeed it was. UCD came from a half-time deficit of 0-10 to 0-5, and 'won' the second half by 0-7 to 0-3.
They fell just short at the end, literally, when John Heslin's last-gasp attempt at an equaliser was grabbed by Offaly 'keeper Alan Mulhall instead of going over the bar.
Offaly manager Emmet McDonnell wasn't too worried about the close shave, particularly after the bright, eager and positive display by his players in the first half.
The home side rattled over three points inside the first five minutes courtesy of John Moloney, McNamee and Ciaran Hurley.
Five of their six starting forwards -- Graham Guilfoyle, Hurley, Nigel Dunne, Moloney and McNamee -- were on the scoresheet by half-time.
The sixth -- centre-forward Peter Cunningham -- didn't get to raise a white flag, but he was impressive in his creative and diligent work in the middle third.
Dublin All-Ireland winner Paul Mannion claimed UCD's opening score after 10 minutes from a free. He got another from a free, and UCD's first-half tally was completed by Paul Kingston -- brother of Laois' Donie -- James Tooher and Paul Heslin.
Heslin found it difficult to find his accuracy, particularly from placed balls, but he got the Belfield side's fifth point just before the interval.
UCD brought on three subs at half-time -- Paraic Harnan, Conor Downey and Aaron Murray -- and they helped up the ante.
The home side were kept under long bouts of pressure, and could have done with a goal when McNamee broke through only to be denied, first by goalie JB Carty, and then from a block by Rob Tierney.
Kingston, Tooher and Heslin, from a free, rattled over three points without reply from UCD early in the second half, and it was game on.
Further scores by Paddy Reilly and Shane McEntee brought UCD level at 0-11 each with 10 minutes left. From then to the end, it was nip and tuck, but small gains are important in building spirit as Offaly boss McDonnell pointed out.
"UCD are a very good side and they injected more pace into it in the second half which they needed to do," he said.
"While we struggled for long periods, this time last year we were losing games by a point.
"We lost to Limerick by a point in the National League last year when they got it back to a draw but this year we finished it out and won by a point.
"We weren't happy with the first 20 minutes of the second half, but we stayed in the game and then we finished it out."
Indeed they did.
Nigel Dunne knocked over two points from frees in the 66th and 68th minutes, and experience paid off as Offaly did enough to keep UCD at bay from then to the final whistle.
SCORERS -- Offaly: N Dunne 0-6 (5fs), N McNamee, C Hurley 0-2 each, G Guilfoyle, E Carroll, J Moloney 0-1 each. UCD: J Heslin 0-3 (2fs), P Mannion (2f), P Kingston, J Tooher (1 '45') 0-2 each; P Reilly, S McEntee, R Basquel 0-1 each.
OFFALY -- A Mulhall; D Brady, P McConway, J O'Connor; E Carroll, S Delaney, N Darby; J Brickland, R Allen; G Guilfoyle, P Cunningham, C Hurley; N Dunne, J Moloney, N McNamee. Subs: C Egan for Delaney (43), K Casey for Moloney (54), N Smith for Brickland (55), P Sullivan for Hurley (67), D Kelly for Allen (69).
UCD -- JB Carty; O Fitzpatrick, R Tierney, A English; C Lenehan, P Reilly, D Devereux; M Hanlon, J Heslin; E Monaghan, P Mannion, J Tooher; R Basquel, M Hughes, P Kingston. Subs: P Harnan for Lenehan (h-t), C Downey for Monaghan (h-t), A Murphy for Devereux (h-t), R Tone for O'Hanlon (43), D Byrne for Fitzpatrick (50), S McEntee for Downey (56, BC).
REF -- M Deegan (Laois).