Friday 24 January 2020

Hanniffy blow forces Baker into reshuffle for Clare clash

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

OFFALY'S prospects of reaching the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B final have been hit by an injury to centre-back Rory Hanniffy, which will rule him out of Sunday's crucial clash with Clare in Tullamore.

A broken thumb, which he sustained in the final minute of last Saturday's clash with Limerick, has sidelined Hanniffy and will force Offaly manager Ollie Baker to restructure his defence.

Clare, managed by Baker's former team-mate Davy Fitzgerald, have already qualified for the final -- the winners of which will be promoted to Division 1A -- but will be anxious to maintain the momentum which has powered them to four successive wins.

Offaly and Limerick are both on five points. Antrim, who play Limerick, are on four points, so any one of that trio could join Clare in the final.

If Offaly and Limerick win, placings will be decided on scoring difference as head-to-head cannot apply following their draw last Saturday.

massive

Offaly are 13 points ahead of Limerick on scoring difference, so Limerick would need a massive win over Antrim to reach the final. It means that Limerick will be hoping that Clare do them a favour by beating Offaly.

Of course, Antrim aren't out of the equation either. If they beat Limerick and Clare beat Offaly, they will reach the final.

It will be particularly disappointing for Limerick if they fail to reach the final as they won the Division 2 title last year, but didn't make the top flight this season after it was reduced from eight counties to six.

They opposed the introduction of the new structure but didn't receive enough support to prevent it.

Wexford, who thought they had survived in the top flight last year, were equally annoyed after being dropped down to Division 1B this season but now have far more pressing concerns as they are facing a relegation play-off with Laois on April 15, after winning only one of four games so far.

After losing to Antrim in the first round, Wexford's season appeared to have settled down when they staged a great recovery to beat Offaly, but they have since lost to Limerick and Clare.

It would be seriously damaging to a county like Wexford to suffer the drop into Division 2A at a time when new manager Liam Dunne is trying to rebuild the squad.

Their main problem has been in defence, where the average concession rate in their four games so far stands at 26 points, almost 10 points more than table-toppers Clare.

Irish Independent

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