Keaney helps Dublin survive anxious finale
Dublin 1-20 Offaly 2-16:“Ye just have to take one look down, lads,” said Anthony Daly, spreading his palms out to the troughs and hillocks of the Parnell Park surface.
“It’s an absolute lottery, like. Fellas trying to rise to the ball – sure how could you rise it on that? You’d want a shovel!”
His Dublin team had only just had a point to spare over Offaly on a Saturday night that was the very definition of making hard work of it.
After leading by five at the break, by seven midway through the second half and by five again with 10 minutes to go, they still needed centre back Liam Rushe to rise and catch the last puck-out of the game to lock the victory down.
That Dublin hadn’t clear water behind them by that stage was down a little to the pitch, a little to the referee and a little to their own wastefulness.
On another night, they’d have had a fence to spare in the final furlong. Close and all as Offaly came to nicking a draw, anything but a Dublin win and the scoreboard could have been sued for libel. Even Offaly manager Ollie Baker admitted as much afterwards.
“If we did get something out of it, it probably would have felt like we were stealing it,” said Baker. “Dublin might have felt unjustified then because, at certain stages, we looked out of it and that’s why we have to give a bit of credit to our players that we stayed at it and kept going.
“Like, Dublin are a quality team and we’re delighted in one sense that they didn’t wipe the floor with us. But this is a league at the end of the day. You don’t get any plaudits for going away with moral victories.”
Not entirely true, Ollie.
If there’s ever a time for a moral victory, it’s the last weekend of February with snow dusting the players and summer barely a speck yet. Offaly’s players will train on with their tails up, happy on the back of decent debuts from Seán Gardiner and David King and assured by the inevitability of Shane Dooley’s shooting.
His 2-9 encompassed the full house – 1-8 from frees, a goal from play and a brilliant late point from a sideline cut.
As long as he stays standing, Offaly will keep any scoreboard rolling.
Dublin’s ambitions are pegged a few rungs higher though and in flashes here they stitched little moments of class on to their considerable heft and drive.
Conal Keaney was outstanding throughout, a magnet under the dropping ball in the first half and a ruthless source of pure striking in the second. He ended the night with five points from play, each a gem to match the previous one.
Danny Sutcliffe overcame some early anxiousness to plunder 1-2 and Conor McCormack’s was the buzziest display of the evening. Shored up by assured hours at the back from Rushe, Michael Carton and the excellent Ruairí Trainor, Dublin will wonder how it came to be so close at the end.