Shell shocked Offaly aim to pick up the pieces for season defining clash with Dubs

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Shell shocked Offaly aim to pick up the pieces for season defining clash with Dubs thumbnailWexford got off to a flying start as their first attack saw the sliother slip past Offaly Captain David King and goalie Eoghan Cahill

A SHELL shocked Offaly will be embarking on a week of morale rebuilding and confidence restoring as they gear up for their most important game in many a year when they travel to Dublin for their final game in the round robin stage of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship on Sunday next - a defeat will put them down to the Joe McDonagh Cup next season.

Having given reasonably decent performances in predictable defeats by Galway and Kilkenny, Offaly had earmarked Wexford as a game where they could produce a surprise, especially on home turf.

Unfortunately for them, they were completely off the pace on the day as a ravenous Wexford just blew them out of the water. There was no hiding place from the 5-24 to 2-9 final scoreline and it was Offaly's worse nightmare.

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald stated afterwards that Offaly may have been vulnerable as it was their third game in three weeks - with them having had a bye in the first round, it was their second game and he revealed that they targeted this as one that they would have a real cut at.

They certainly did that, tearing into Offaly with ferocious intensity and intent from the throw in. A first minute goal from Conor McDonald put them in control and a second from Aidan Nolan put them 2-5 to 0-2 in front.

It was all over at that early stage and Wexford showed no let up in the first half as Offaly just couldn't get to grips with them. Eoghan Cahill, Offaly's star of the championship to date, saved a 30th minute penalty from Aidan Nolan but was wrong footed for a second penalty three minutes later from goalkeeper Mark Fanning as Wexford led by 3-12 to 0-6 at half time.

Offaly full back Sean Gardiner was sent off as he picked up yellow cards for fouling in both penalties and in the second half, the home side ended up with twelve men as Oisin Kelly and sub Ronan Hughes picked up straight red cards - Offaly will look at footage of these to decide if there are any grounds for appeal.

Kelly had netted a goal for Offaly before his dismissal but prior to that Lee Chin and the outstanding Jack O'Connor got three pointers for the winners. Wexford eased off a bit after that but their victory was never in doubt as they ran in a spate of subs in the final Offaly.

Unsurprisingly, the new managers were in very different places after wards when they reflected on the outcome.

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald told Radio 3 afterwards:"I thought Wexford were incredible in the first half. We had to bring unreal pace to it. I had watched Offaly and I thought they had made big strides."

The Clare legend was conscious of the fact that it was Offaly's third game in three weeks and he hoped that something similar doesn't happen them as they now face into their real big tests against Kilkenny and Galway. "We felt it might catch up with them. We needed to come at them like a tonne of bricks today because they were after having two hard games. It could happen to us in the next few weeks. It is a funny championship. It doesn't give you any room to catch your breath or reflect."

He was delighted with their work rate." We had 11/12 turnovers by half time and seven of them were from forwards which is great to see. The lads have come on but still have more to do. We are not the finished article yet but we are moving in the right direction."

Offaly manager Kevin Martin knew they were in trouble as he observed their pre-match warm up. "We just can't put our finger on it. They were flat. Even in the warm up, they didn't look good. We thought they were nervous or focussed that bit better but it wasn't, they were flat. Even doing our ball drills in the warm up, the balls weren't sticking and I hadn't a good feeling about it.

This is top tier hurling and this is what happens if you are not ready for it. Their bodies are sore and tired, we have a hard task to get back but they have worked too hard for the last six months. I think they will get their heads together for one more big game.

The Tullamore man added: "We never showed up really and then ending up with twelve men didn't help us. To be fair to Wexford, from the word off they were flying at us, running everywhere. We looked at footage of them during the week, the way they play their game. We knew that was going to happen but we just weren't able to stay with them. That's just the reality of it."

"It is very tough and we have to go to the well next Sunday. It is going to be hard to get them back up there again. They have worked too hard for the last six months to die away like this and we will get going again. Just get their heads right, get their bodies back right and give it a lash again."

Asked about the sending offs, he said: "I have to look closer at the sending offs. I thought one of them was very harsh. The referee didn't do us any favours even if we did commit a lot of fouls and I have no problem saying that. Next Sunday is the big one. Everyone said it would boil down to that and that is where it is now. We have to regroup and get the boys back into a good place.".

See pages 66 and 67 for reports on the match and a preview of next Sunday's big game in Parnell Park.



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