Dooley finds range for Faithful to set up do-or-die Kerry clash
Offaly 1-17 Carlow 2-11
A tough week for Offaly hurling ended on a better note on Saturday as they recovered from a slow start to take care of Carlow.
A mere six days after their 14-point loss to Westmeath, Eamonn Kelly's charges bounced back with a display full of character, even if the quality wasn't there for large parts. Offaly trailed by 0-5 to 0-1 after five minutes and 1-7 to 0-9 at the break but they showed resilience and led by Shane Dooley, who fired 1-10, they came good to set up a do-or-die tussle with Kerry in Tullamore on Sunday week.
It brought to an end a turbulent week on and off the field for Offaly and it is a period that manager Eamonn Kelly certainly wants to park.
"I don't ever want to get a week like it again where you have cowards ringing you on private numbers telling you what they think of you," he said.
"Some of the stuff got thrown at me on social media, I know that goes with the terrain but we are trying to do everything we can here. The boys inside are doing everything in their power.
"We had three players that walked from the panel with the comment that they don't like where this thing is going and they don't want to be associated with it. What you have left in the dressing room are honest fellas and they are working very, very hard."
Carlow finished with 13 men after Diarmuid Byrne and Hugh Paddy O'Byrne were shown straight red cards late on, while goalkeeper Brian Treacy was also shown a straight red by referee James McGrath after the final whistle to compound their misery.
It was a poor game with conditions far from ideal in Tullamore. Both teams struggled with their touch but as Kelly explained, the stakes were high.
"It was a big game for both teams because the consequence of losing it was dropping down into the Christy Ring and I suppose there was a bit of fear in our lads from time to time. You would have to feel for Carlow there with the red cards in the finish. Our touch is spot on in training but there were nerves today. That was as big a game as an All-Ireland given the consequences of losing."
Carlow led 0-5 to 0-1 after only five minutes. Offaly eventually settled into the game and four points in a row from Shane Dooley, including a sideline cut, brought them back level.
Joe Bergin and the on-form Dooley then fired the Faithful ahead and at 0-9 to 0-6 after 28 minutes, the home side looked to be peeling away. That cushion was soon relinquished when Ross Smithers found the net before a Kevin McDonald free sent Carlow in 1-7 to 0-9 ahead at half-time.
The game livened up on 43 minutes with both sides finding the net. A scramble in the Offaly goalmouth saw Sean Murphy poke the ball to the Offaly net but with the next attack, Offaly struck for an instant response with Dooley finding the net from close range after good link-up play from Bergin and Sean Cleary.
Offaly managed to open up a bit of a lead, 1-14 to 2-8 after 55 minutes, but Carlow responded with character and two points from sub Denis Murphy left only a point between the sides at 1-15 to 2-11 with just under 10 minutes to go.
Carlow's Byrne was then shown a straight red card on 65 minutes for pulling Shane Kinsella's helmet off while things got worse with two minutes to go when O'Byrne suffered the same fate. Offaly tagged on two more late scores to seal the win.
"I thought we fought better today but we are still a mile off where we need to be if we are going to be turning over Kerry in two weeks' time. Our destiny is in our own hands here against Kerry," added Kelly.
SCORERS - Offaly: S Dooley 1-10 (6f, 1 '65' and 1 s-l), J Bergin (1f), P Murphy and J Mulrooney 0-2 each, K Connolly 0-1. Carlow: Sean Murphy 1-1, J Doyle 0-3, R Smithers 1-0, K McDonald (1f) and D Murphy (1f) 0-2 each, Seamus Murphy, D Byrne and J M Nolan 0-1 each.
OFFALY - J Dempsey 7; P Rigney 6, D Shortt 7, C McDonald 6; D King 7, S Gardiner 6, D Mooney 6; P Camon 7, S Cleary 6; C Kiely, 6 J Bergin 6, S Kinsella 6; P Murphy 7, S Dooley 8, K Connolly 6. Subs: J Mulrooney 7 for C Kiely (46), P Guinan 6 for S Cleary (56), J Sampson 6 for K Connolly (58).
CARLOW - B Treacy 7; G Coady 7, M Ryan 6, A Corcoran 6; D Byrne 6, R Coady 7, J O'Hara 6; J Doyle 8, R Kelly 6; Sean Murphy 6, Seamus Murphy 7, J M Nolan 6; K McDonald 6, M Kavanagh 6, R Smithers 6. Subs: D Murphy 7 for K McDonald (46), H P O'Byrne 5 for J M Nolan (60), C Lawlor for R Kelly (65).
Ref - J McGrath (Westmeath)