Sobering start to Gilroy era as Faithful run riot at headquarters
Offaly 2-25 Dublin 1-15
More than five years have passed since Pat Gilroy and Mickey Whelan last stood together on the sideline in Croke Park. On that occasion in August 2012, Mayo ended Dublin's reign as All-Ireland football champions.
Last night there was less excitement in the stadium for the return of Gilroy and Whelan to headquarters in a managerial role - though this time around their mission is arguably more challenging. And the size of the task they face was underlined by an experienced Offaly side being managed for the first time by All-Ireland winner Kevin Martin.
The visitors' 13-point winning margin didn't flatter them in the least as they recorded their first league win over Dublin since 2010, and their first in a competitive game at headquarters since 2005.
Essentially this was a new Dublin team: only Shane Barrett, Chris Crummey, Donal Burke and Fionn ó Riain Broin featured when they lost by 22 points to Tipperary in their last championship match in 2017.
The stadium was virtually deserted when the action got under way. As anticipated, Dublin dropped players behind the ball once they lost the possession with the recalled Johnny McCaffrey operating at wing-back and Cian McBride being deployed primarily as a sweeper. But the Dublin defence was still alarmingly porous and it took two wonderful saves from recalled goalkeeper Alan Nolan to twice deny Oisín Kelly goals.
Nonetheless, Offaly had established a four-point lead (0-10 to 0-6) after 22 minutes when Dublin scored a goal against the run of play - an incisive run from captain Crummey split the visitors' defence and he linked up with Paul Winters who found the net.
But it was a only a temporary respite for Dublin's inexperienced side as Offaly responded by hitting five points on the spin with midfielder Shane Kinsella catching the eye with three points from play. By half-time five of Offaly's forwards had scored from play.
Donal Burke converted his second free a minute before the break but in keeping with the mood of the half Joe Bergin had the final say, scoring his sixth point to leave the Faithful five points clear at the break (0-16 to 1-8).
It was Bergin's final involvement in the game as he was replaced by Shane Dooley who was making his 100th appearance for Offaly in league and championship.
He announced his arrival by dispatching a 38th-minute penalty after Bill O'Carroll dragged down Conor Mahon - who took at least half a dozen steps in the build-up.
Dublin introduced 35-year-old Conal Keaney - who last featured in 2015 for the hurlers - in the 46th minute but by then Offaly were in cruise control.
Dublin did rally briefly in the final quarter hitting three points on the spin and Offaly goalkeeper Conor Slevin deflected a fiercely driven 20-metre free from substitute John Hetherton out for a '65, which Donal Burke missed.
Straight from the puck-out Offaly attacked and substitute Liam Langton, who had just been introduced, found himself in splendid isolation; he shrugged off an attempt by goalkeeper Alan Nolan to drag him down and found an empty net from close range to end the game as a contest six minutes from the finish.
There was time for the point of the game from Offaly's impressive corner-forward Oisín Kelly as the Faithful recorded their first win in the league in Croke Park since winning the title in 1991.
Scorers - Offaly: S Dooley 1-5 (1 pen, 5f); J Bergin 0-6 (4f 1 '65); L Langton 1-0; S Kinsella, C Egan, O Kelly (1 sideline) 0-3 each; D Egan, D Currams 0-2 each; D Shortt 0-1; Dublin: D Burke 0-6 (5f); P Winters 1-1; A Moore 0-2; C Crummey, F Whitely, R Smith, E Dillon, N McMorrow, J Hetherton 0-1 each.
Dublin: A Nolan; P Smyth, B O'Carroll, C Hendricken; S Barrett, C McBride, C Crummey; J McCaffrey T Connolly; D Burke, F Whitely, R Smith; A Moore, P Winters, F ó Riain Broin. Subs: E Dillon for ó Riain Broin (25); N McMorrow for McCaffrey (43); C Keaney for Moore (46); J Hetherton for Winters (53); J Madden for Hendricken (66).
Offaly: C Slevin; T Spain, S Gardiner, B Conneely; P Delaney, P Camon, D Shortt; D King, S Kinsella; J Bergin, C Egan, D Egan; O Kelly, C Mahon, D Currams. Subs: S Dooley for Bergin (h-t); T Geraghty for C Egan (53); L Langton for Mahon (63); D O'Toole for Connelly (71), D Doughan for Delaney (73)
Referee: P O'Dwyer (Carlow)
Sunday Indo Sport