OFFALY SECURED JUST their third Leinster SFC victory since 2007, requiring extra-time to see off Mickey Harte’s Louth in a high-scoring and pulsating contest.
Louth kicked the last three scores of the 70 minutes, almost won it with Sam Mulroy’s final kick of normal time that drifted narrowly wide and looked to have the momentum heading into extra-time. When Offaly needed leaders, it was veteran Niall McNamee who stood up.
The 35-year-old had two points to his name and was involved in the first goal before he scored 1-1 in the first period of the extra period. He set-up Peter Cunningham for Offaly’s third green flag to seal a nine-point victory for John Maughan’s side.
Elsewhere, Cian Farrell helped himself to a six-point haul, David Dempsey showed serious pace at wing-back, Cunningham grabbed 1-1 from midfield and Ruairi McNamee had his moments up front.
The Faithful outscored Louth by 2-4 to 0-1 in extra-time, showing their impressive fitness during the extra 20 minutes.
Offaly arrived into this game with the worst record in Leinster over the last 10 years. They’d beaten only Longford (2016) and Carlow (2020) in the past decade, so this victory was welcome one.
The victors will play Kildare in next weekend’s Leinster quarter-final, while Louth’s season is over.
Mickey Harte’s first campaign over the Wee County ended in defeat at the first hurdle. For a man so accustomed to qualifier runs during his time in Tyrone, it’s a pity they won’t get the opportunity this year.
Ultimately poor shooting cost Louth. They shot 16 wides and dropped a further eight short, so it’s not hard to see where the game was lost.
Both these counties sealed promotion in league, though Offaly suffered a heavy Division 3 final defeat to Derry last weekend in Croke Park. It must be said they reacted impressively to that 12-point loss. They’ll fancy their chances against Kildare next weekend, the same opponents who dumped them out in last year’s championship.
This was a showdown between the two most experienced inter-county managers on the circuit. Harte and Maughan last met on the sideline in the 2005 league when Tyrone and Mayo clashed.
Shane Lowry, who recently announced a partnership with Offaly GAA, was in attendance alongside dad, 1982 All-Ireland winner Brendan.
Offaly goalscorer Bernard Allen.
Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO
Louth set-up like Harte’s Tyrone, regularly dropping 15 men behind the ball and counter-attacking at pace. Offaly picked them apart early on, scoring six points in the opening quarter.
McNamee, a late starter in place of Bernard Allen, looked sharp early on kicked two excellent scores. He stroked over the first on the loop from an Anton Sullivan assist after a fine Carl Stewart mark from the kick-out.
18 years after his championship debut as a 17-year-old, McNamee won a 50-50 ball after Cian Farrell’s sideline and sent the Faithful three clear.
Former AFL man Ciaran Byrne’s second score from midfield left Louth 0-6 to 0-4 behind at the first water break, and they dominated the second quarter.
Offaly were wasteful in possession with Sullivan guilty of three turnovers in quick succession that saw him called ashore by Maughan on the half hour mark.
It was a ruthless call by Maughan and somewhat harsh on the Rhode star who was later reintroduced, but the turnovers served as oxygen for a Louth team that threatened on the counter attack.
Three Sam Mulroy scores (two frees) helped them into a two-point interval lead.
With Ruairi McNamee looking dangerous, he kicked a score and set-up another for Jordan Hayes, Offaly hauled themselves level by the 45th minute. James Lalor and Johnny Moloney were driving forces from defence and a deft handpass by McNamee set-up Farrell’s fifth point of the day.
When Niall Darby sent over one from outside the boot for Offaly’s third in succession, they led for the first time since the 31st minute. Dermot Campbell and Bill Carroll traded efforts, leaving Offaly ahead by 0-13 to 0-12 at the second water break.
Ciaran Byrne, playing in just his fourth championship game for Louth, was picked out after a fine Grimes catch at midfield and he pointed, before his brother Declan added another after a short kick-out was turned over.
Faithful keeper Paddy Dunican kicked a 30m free but Louth retook the lead immediately though Ciaran Keenan.
Offaly trailed by a point heading into the final seven minutes of normal-time, when Ruairi McNamee turned over a short kick-out by Craig Lynch to Niall Sharkey.
Offaly’s Eoin Rigney and Declan Byrne of Louth.
Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO
The Louth substitute recovered to pull off an excellent block on Niall McNamee but the rebound fell to Bernard Allen, who went for a point that dropped fortuitously into the top corner.
Anthony Williams and Sam Mulroy reduced the gap to one as we entered four minutes of stoppage-time. Eoin Carroll fouled Ciaran Downey and Mulroy thumped over the free from 45m for his sixth of the day.
The St Martin’s man had a last gasp chance to win it but sent the last kick of the game wide, sending the game to extra-time.
Louth looked to have the momentum as we headed for a further 20 minutes until McNamee’s decisive intervention.
Cunningham burst through the middle and hand passed across goal to give McNamee an easy palmed finish. In the second period of extra-time, McNamee returned the favour for his team-mate to kill off Louth.
Scorers for Offaly: Cian Farrell 0-7 (0-2f), Niall McNamee 1-3, Peter Cunningham 1-1, Paddy Dunican (0-1f, 0-1 45) 0-2, Bill Carroll, Niall Darby, Jordan Hayes, Ruairi McNamee, Mark Abbott and Eoin Carroll 0-1 each.
Scorers for Louth: Sam Mulroy 0-6 (0-4f), Ciaran Byrne 0-3, Ciaran Keenan 0-2, Dermot Cambell, Anthony Williams, Eoghan Callaghan, Liam Jackson, Ryan Burns, Declan Byrne and Ciaran Downey 0-1 each.
1. Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks)
2. James Lalor (Raheen), 3. Eoin Rigney (Rhode), 4. Niall Darby (Rhode)
5. Colm Doyle (Clara), 18. Johnny Moloney (Tullamore), 2. David Dempsey (Ballycommon)
8. Peter Cunningham (Bracknagh), 9. Jordan Hayes (Edenderry)
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10. Shane Horan (Kilmacud Crokes), 6. Carl Stewart (Clara), 12. Anton Sullivan (Rhode)
25. Niall McNamee (Rhode), 14. Cian Farrell (Edenderry), 15. Rúairí McNamee (Rhode)
10. Bill Carroll (Cappincur) for Sullivan (30)
9. Eoin Carroll (Cappincur) for Horan (ht)
13. Bernard Allen (Tubber) for Cunningham (56)
24. Cathal Mangan (Kilclonfert) for Moloney (60)
21. Mark Abbott (Edenderry) for Ruairi McNamee (70)
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12. Sullivan for Bill Carroll (start of ET)
8. Cunningham for Hayes (start of ET)
20. Cian Donohue (St Brigid’s) for Stewart (start of ET)
19. Jack Quinn (Ballycumber) for Doyle (78)
23. Joe Maher (Ferbane) for Niall McNamee (86)
26. Aaron Leavy (Tullamore) for Dempsey (86)
1. Craig Lynch (St Martin’s)
2. Dan Corcoran (Geraldines), 3. Dermot Campbell (Dreadnots), 4. Donal McKenny (St Mary’s, Ardee)
5. Emmet Carolan (Newtown Blues), 6. Anthony Williams (Dreadnots), 7. Eoghan Callaghan (St Martin’s)
8. Bevan Duffy (St Fechin’s), 9. Ciaran Byrne (St Mochta’s)
10. Liam Jackson (St Mary’s, Ardee), 11. Sam Mulroy (St Martin’s), 12. Ciaran Downey (Newtown Blues)
13. Ciaran Keenan (St Mary’s, Ardee), 14. Conor Grimes (Glen Emmets), 15. Ryan Burns (Hunterstown Rovers)
17. Declan Byrne (St Mochta’s) for Burns (45)
26. Niall Sharkey (Glyde Rangers) for Corcoran (51)
24. Sean Marry (St Brigid’s) for Duffy (68)
25. Daire Nally (Newtown Blues) for Jackson (68)
23. Conall McKeever for Grimes (inj, 70+6)
20. Tommy Durnin (Westerns) for Nally (78)
10. Jackson for Keenan (HT in ET)
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)
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