Dream start for Martin, nightmare start for Wallace

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Dream start for Martin, nightmare start for Wallace thumbnailColin Egan and Offaly turned in a great performance to beat Dublin in the National Hurling League on Saturday.

THE new Offaly senior hurling and football managers experienced vastly conflicting emotions as the county opened their National Hurling and Football League campaigns last weekend.

For hurling supremo, Kevin Martin, his wildest dreams were surpassed as Offaly inflicted a 2-25 to 1-15 demolition on a shell shocked Dublin in Division 1 B of the National Hurling League in Croke Park on Saturday night.

For Stephen Wallace, the Kerry man taxed with resurrecting the football fortunes, his worse nightmare unfolded in front of his disbelieving eyes as Offaly suffered a horrendous 3-18 to 1-12 defeat in their National Football League Division 3 opener at home to Longford in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park on Sunday afternoon.

It was a stunning start for Offaly hurlers as they dismantled Dublin with remarkable ease. Playing with great intensity and commitment, their hunger forced Dublin onto the back foot from early on and they always looked like winning it.

Complete outsiders in the bookies before hand, Offaly played some fantastic hurling. They scored freely throughout the first half and it was hard to know who was the more shell shocked, the Offaly or Dublin support, as the visitors went in leading by 0-16 to 1-8 at the break.

Offaly still had work to do but a brilliantly stuck penalty goal from sub Shane Dooley three minutes after the restart effectively put the issue beyond doubt and another sub, Liam Langton really put the icing on the cake with a clinically taken goal six minutes from time.

Unsurprisingly, Offaly manager Kevin Martin was in an elated mood when he spoke afterwards. "I have to say it was a really good performance. I wasn't surprised. They worked hard. We were in a really good place during the week. Mentally, they were strong. I have to say, they really performed. We knew Dublin were going to bring a physicality to it and we had to match them. That's what we were training for. To get up here and get fit and get strong."

He added: "We have the hurlers. It is only January. We are not going to get carried away. It's one week but it's a step in the right direction and it's positive.

There's optimism around the county the last couple of weeks but I have to say, when the boys got a sniff that we could win the game, they did push on.

It is confidence and we have to start building confidence. That's what we have been lacking the last number of years. It's a work in progress."

Man of the match Oisin Kelly said: "It was a massive relief for all the hard work we put in throughout the year. We did savage work the last couple of years but this year we really upped it and thank God it paid off."

Kelly had a superb individual performance, though he said: "I thought I could have been taken off at half time, though thankfully they gave me another couple of minutes to prove myself and it paid off."

He was asked about the Limerick challenge. "With the work we have put in, we fear no one. That is just the way we are so we will give it lots of it against Limerick.

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy admitted: "We were out fought and out worked there by Offaly. They are a strong team, a physical team. They worked very hard for each other and they out played us. There can be no argument from us."

On Sunday, the mood of Offaly supporters was also one of disbelief, but for very different reasons as they watched Longford dismantle them. They completely struggled against the wind in the first half and Longford's half time lead of 0-14 to 1-1 was a fair reflection of the way the game was progressing.

It really went south for Offaly after this as Longford got three second half goals in the space of eight minutes to lead by a whopping 19 points, 3-15 to 1-2 after 43 minutes.

Fortunately for Offaly they improved after this, outscoring Longford by 10 points to three but that couldn't disguise the really bad beating that they shipped.

Both sides have huge games this weekend with the hurlers welcoming Limerick to Tullamore for a game that there will now be massive interest in while the footballers travel to Enniskillen to play Fermanagh in a game where there will be massive pressure on to perform.

See reports of last weekend's games and previews of this weekend's games inside.


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