Kevin Egan reports from Tullamore
IT MAY BE a point that proves vital to the survival of one or both of these counties in their battle against relegation from Division Two of the Allianz Football League, or it may yet turn out that these two counties are destined to meet again in Division Three some time in the Spring of 2023.
Certainly in terms of quality, there was something lacking in today’s clash between Offaly and Meath in Tullamore, though it’s unlikely that any game this weekend across the country will surpass it for tension and drama.
A goalkeeping masterclass from Paddy Dunican looked as if it was going to be enough to secure the win for Offaly, as they fought like demons to defend the one-goal advantage they enjoyed thanks to Niall McNamee’s close range finish in the 63rd minute.
However there was nothing that Dunican could do except get his body in position to block Eoin Harkin’s punched effort in the fifth minute of stoppage time, and then watch on in horror as Joey Wallace palmed the ball into the net with the last play of the game.
As the Offaly backs screamed for a square ball decision, referee Fergal Kelly consulted his umpires and allowed the goal to stand, giving the Faithful County their first point of the season, but one that will feel like an inadequate return, given it looked like they had done enough to secure the win.
It was only after McNamee’s goal that Offaly looked like they might win, given that they failed to used the breeze well in the first half, taking just a lead by 0-6 to 0-5 into the dressing room.
All Meath’s scores came from frees but their support running and ball movement was decent, with Cillian O’Sullivan’s return to the starting team giving them a focal point at the centre of the attack, and that helped create goal chances for Tomas O’Reilly and Matthew Costello, which were blocked by Dunican and Colm Doyle.
It was only when Meath inched in front at 0-5 to 0-4, that Offaly finally seemed to show signs of life, restoring a narrow advantage through good points from Dylan Hyland and Mark Abbott.
A lifeline came Offaly’s way when an inexplicable trip from Jack O’Connor on an Offaly defender with the last play of the first half meant he was shown a black card, and Offaly took advantage to kick on and add the first two points of the second half through Niall McNamee and Dylan Hyland.
Offaly’s Niall McNamee.
Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO
Hyland was in sensational form for the home side in the second half, taking his tally up to four points, while McNamee mixed the good with the bad, adding a host of wides and giveaway passes to his scores. However he was still the man that looked like he delivered the win when he finished the ball to the net in the 63rd minute, following excellent link up play with his Rhode colleagues Anton Sullivan and Rúairí McNamee to set up the close range chance.
With Meath’s wide count mounting, and Dunican seemingly impossible to beat as he repelled attempts from Jordan Morris and Matthew Costello, that looked like it would be enough – right up until Joey Wallace made his crucial contribution to break Offaly hearts and potentially change the course of this division’s relegation dogfight.
Scorers for Offaly: Niall McNamee 1-3 (0-1f), Dylan Hyland 0-4, Jack Bryant, Mark Abbott, Paddy Dunican (0-1 ’45) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath: Jordan Morris 0-4 (0-2f), Joey Wallace 1-0, Harry Hogan 0-2 (0-2f), Shane Walsh (0-1f), Donal Keogan, Eoin Harkin, Jason Scully 0-1 each.
1. Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks)
4. Niall Darby (Rhode), 19. Kieran Dolan (Shamrocks), 2. Declan Hogan (Tullamore)
7. Colm Doyle (Clara), 3. James Lalor (Raheen), 5. Cian Donohoe (St. Brigid’s)
8. Bill Carroll (Cappincur), 9. Jordan Hayes (Edenderry)
12. Dylan Hyland (Raheen), 6. David Dempsey (Ballycommon), 21. Mark Abbott (Edenderry)
13. Jack Bryant (Shamrocks), 14. Niall McNamee (Rhode), 15. Rúairí McNamee (Rhode)
10. Cathal Donoghue (Kilcormac-Killoughey) for Donohoe (21)
11. Anton Sullivan (Rhode) for Donoghue (52)
20. Keith O’Neill (Clonbullogue) for Bryant (58)
26. Cathal Flynn (Ferbane) for Abbott (70)
24. Cormac Egan (Tullamore) for R McNamee (72)
1. Harry Hogan (Longwood)
2. Robin Clarke (Duleek/Bellewstown), 3. Eoin Harkin (Dunsaney), 4. Jordan Muldoon (Colmcille)
7. Donal Keogan (Rathkenny), 6. Shane McEntee (St Peter’s Dunboyne), 5. Cathal Hickey (Senechalstown)
9. Ronan Jones (St Peter’s Dunboyne), 8. Pádraic Harnan (Moynalvey)
13. Jason Scully (Oldcastle), 11.Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfe Tones), 12. Mathew Costello (Senechalstown)
15. Jordan Morris (Kingscourt Stars, Cavan), 14. Shane Walsh (Na Fianna), 18. Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey)
22. Jack O’Connor (Curraha) for Hickey (17)
20. Ronan Ryan (Summerhill) for Clarke (31)
23. Eamon Wallace (Ratoath) for O’Reilly (52)
24. Joey Wallace (Ratoath) for O’Sullivan (53)
26. James McEntee (Curraha) for Costello (68)
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)
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