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Offaly do double over Westmeath as Walsh Cup semi final with Kilkenny awaits

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Offaly do double over Westmeath as Walsh Cup semi final with Kilkenny awaits thumbnailOisin Kelly scored the crucial goal in Offaly's win over Westmeath.

TWO Walsh Cup games over Westmeath over the past two weekends saw two wins for Offaly with the reward for Kevin Martin's charges being a home semi final with Kilkenny this Saturday.

Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park will stage the tussle on Saturday with a 2pm throw in as Offaly look to continue preparations ahead of their league opener with Dublin on Saturday 27th January in Croke Park.

The two wins over Westmeath were contrasting. Two weeks ago in Banagher, Offaly squandered a seven point half time lead to hang on and win by two points while last Sunday in Mullingar, it was Westmeath who were sitting pretty at half time leading 0-14 to 1-7 with Offaly failing to score for the last 15 minutes of the opening half.

The second half was a different fare.

Westmeath went scoreless for almost 20 minutes while Offaly began to find their range with the introduction of Shane Dooley sparking them into life to give them a 1-18 to 0-18 win.

Having missed a couple of routine frees in the first day, Dooley was dead eyed on Sunday firing seven second half points.

It was an impressive show of character, perseverance, fitness and will to win from Kevin Martin's men. It is still only January but if the effort and will to win is there at the outset, there is certainly reason to look forward with positive thoughts.

The size of the panel is also a plus. Former manager Kevin Ryan made no secret last year of the fact that he couldn't get 30 lads in for a training game while Martin doesn't seem to have any such problems so far.

Between those players togged out over the course of the two games with Westmeath along with those injured and unavailable at the moment, there is a 36 man strong panel there putting their shoulder to the wheel.

Along with the 26 players that saw action over the two games, Conor Doughan, Derek Morkan, Derek Molloy, Sean Ryan, Enda Grogan, Michael Gilligan, Cillian Kiely, Paddy Delaney, Ronan Hughes and Joe Bergin are also involved with the panel.

Kilkenny are next up for the Offaly men on Saturday and this will be an early season acid test. The Cats easily disposed of Laois and Kildare to top their group with Brian Cody also having a look at new faces as they get ready for an important league campaign of their own. John Walsh is their inform forward with 2-6 in their game against Kildare but like Offaly, they too will face a step up in class this weekend coming.

From an Offaly point of view, there is a long injury list while Damien Egan was also forced off in the opening half last Sunday with what looked to be a head injury.

The winners of Saturday's game in Tullamore will face Wexford or Dublin in the final the following weekend.

See report on page 66.

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