'Immense' Dooley lifts Offaly
Offaly 4-15 Westmeath 1-20
Kevin Ryan hailed Shane Dooley's 'immense' overall contribution after the prolific Tullamore attacker broke Westmeath hearts with two late goals to seal Offaly's passage to the provincial semi-finals, setting up a repeat of last year's last-four clash with Galway.
Dooley, held well for long periods by Tommy Doyle, finished with a flourish to bring his tally to 3-8 and cap a memorable comeback as the visitors saw off stubborn Westmeath resistance in an entertaining Midlands derby in TEG Cusack Park on Saturday night.
Jubilant Offaly boss Ryan, who won the sideline battle with fellow Waterford native Michael Ryan, was glad to have Dooley at his brilliant best and acknowledged that he offered much more than keeping the scoreboard ticking over by reducing Doyle's influence on proceedings.
"He has done that… I remember the Tipperary game. You are on the verge of taking him out of it, 10 or 15 minutes to go and he's tired. And he ends up getting 2-3 in the last three minutes. He is a very hard lad to take out of it even when he is not going well," Ryan said.
"He did an immense job for us, it wasn't just scoring. We had a good look at Westmeath and the full-back was setting up a lot of plays for them. A very hard man to mark. Shane kept him occupied.
"We were very happy with Shane's contribution even before he was scoring.
"For him to finish, when he gets a chance… that last goal, that's his experience and awareness. The goalkeeper had taken the four steps and had to throw it up. Shane was just there to tip it in. Very good."
Offaly suffered a 14-point mauling at the hands of the Lake men last year, and another upset looked likely as Westmeath powered into a 0-12 to 1-4 lead at the break, and were ahead 0-18 to 1-13 after 63 minutes, but Kevin Ryan emptied his bench to good effect.
The half-time introduction of Paddy Murphy in midfield and veteran Joe Bergin in attack added a fresh impetus and they gradually got to grips with the home side before three goals in a thrilling last 10 minutes ensured they avoided slipping back to the Leinster round-robin stages next year.
"The pressure we had ourselves under not to go back into the round-robin was immense," said a relieved Ryan.
"It's a ridiculous thing, it affects everything, getting club championship, a couple of rounds done, getting lads back to the club. It's a crazy competition. We probably made it even harder on ourselves than it was. But that's what it meant to us."
Westmeath counterpart Michael Ryan rued the absence of key personnel like Eoin Price, the suspended Derek McNicholas and defender Tommy Gallagher (who hobbled off after 16 minutes with a knee injury) and the concession of four goals, three of which were avoidable.
"We made mistakes at crucial times," the former Déise boss lamented. "We weathered the Offaly storm and went a couple of points ahead again. And then they went five points up and we fought our way back in injury time but ultimately we gave away another poor goal at the end.
"When you give away four goals it's hard to win a match.
"We probably don't have the resources to replace those guys but tribute to both teams, they went at it hammer and tongs. This is supposed to be the supporting act in the Leinster Championship, people didn't rate any of these two teams, but I think they both showed they can hurl."
Allan Devine, unerring from frees, traded placed balls with Dooley in the opening minutes before the Offaly attacker made a nuisance of himself under a high delivery and dispatched a penalty after being barrelled over by Lake keeper Paddy Maloney.
It was tit for tat thereafter in a scrappy opening half. Offaly led 1-4 to 0-6 after 26 minutes, but spurned a few goal chances as Westmeath recovered from some wasteful shooting to put on the after-burners before the break.
Sub Darragh Egerton hit the first of six unanswered points, quickly followed by Joey Boyle (2), Aonghus Clarke, Robbie Greville and an exquisite Niall O'Brien sideline cut as they deservedly held a five-point half-time advantage after playing with the aid of a deceptively strong breeze.
Offaly looked a different side on the resumption and took charge in the opening exchanges, with Dooley hitting his first from play while Emmet Nolan came into the game after a quiet first half to cut the deficit to one, 0-13 to 1-9 after 46 minutes.
Killian Doyle hit back with a super point from distance before Oisín Kelly kicked wide with the goal at his mercy, and Devine made Offaly pay at the other end, stretching the gap to three, but quick-fire points from points from Dooley, Bergin and sub Liam Langton drew Offaly level.
Devine intervened with two more frees before Dooley and Boyle swapped scores but the real drama was only beginning to unfold as the game took on a different life in the closing ten minutes.
Nolan put Offaly ahead with a brilliant individual goal after surging through the Westmeath defence and full-back Dermott Shortt hit an inspirational point from distance.
The result looked assured when Dooley hit their third goal, reacting quickest in a goalmouth scramble, but two Devine points left a goal in it and Doyle miraculously fired to the Offaly net from an impossible angle to tie the game with time almost up, 3-14 to 1-20.
Dooley would have the last laugh, however, pouncing on a blunder from Maloney to tap the ball to the open net before putting the seal on a thrilling comeback victory win with a beautiful point when falling to the ground.
SCORERS - Offaly: S Dooley 3-8 (1-0 pen, 0-5fs), E Nolan 1-1, O Kelly 0-2, P Guinan, J Bergin, L Langton, D Shortt 0-1 each.
Westmeath: A Devine 0-10 (8fs, 0-1 '65), K Doyle 1-2, J Boyle 0-3, N O'Brien 0-2 (0-1 sideline), R Greville, A Clarke, D Egerton 0-1 each.
OFFALY - J Dempsey 7; B Conneely 8, D Shortt 8, E Grogan 7; S Gardiner 6, A Treacy 5, D King 6; S Ryan 6, P Guinan 5; O Kelly 6, S Kinsella 6, E Nolan 7; S Cleary 5, S Dooley 8, P Geraghty 5. Subs: J Bergin 7 for Geraghty and P Murphy 8 for Treacy (both half time), L Langton 7 for Kinsella (48), S Quirke 6 for Cleary (51), C Kiely 6 for Guinan (58)
WESTMEATH - P Maloney 5; S Power 7, T Doyle 7, T Gallagher 6; A Craig 6, P Greville 7, C Shaw 7; A Clarke 7, G Greville 6; C Boyle 6, K Doyle 7, J Boyle 7; R Greville 6, N O'Brien 6, A Devine 7. Subs: D Egerton 7 for Gallagher inj (16), J Galvin for O'Brien (38 BS), O'Brien for Galvin (41), Galvin 6 for Power int (62), B Murtagh 6 for O'Brien (66).
REF - S Cleere (Kilkenny)