O’Byrne Cup wrap: Offaly end cup on a high on day of tributes to Ashling Murphy

Poignant day for the county marked by win over Louth, as both Meath and Laois win

Louth 2-6 Offaly 0-15

Offaly, on a poignant week for their county, defeated Louth to end their O’Byrne Cup campaign in victorious fashion.

Tributes to Ashling Murphy were heartfelt on a dour January afternoon in Ardee. Wreaths were laid by players from both sides after an arm in arm combined minute’s silence, a united showing of the countries’ grief.

A further stoppage on the 23rd minute of the game, along with both number 23 jerseys not used on the day, all added to what was on people’s minds when the football interrupted them.

On the pitch, both McNamee cousins were on song with four points each. Ruairí’s sparkling cameo was the difference between the side, with all four from play in the final quarter. Niall landed four in the opening half to nudge his side 0-6 to 0-4 ahead at half time.

Niall McNamee was sin binned at the start of the second half, but Louth struggled to gain a foothold in the game.

Mickey Harte’s side did have flashes of brilliance during purple patches, something that bodes well ahead of the league campaign. Leonard Grey and Ryan Burns finished two well worked moves to the net but Offaly’s control was too much for the hosts.

Louth: M McEneaney; D Corcoran, D Campbell (0-1), D McKenny; C Faulkner, S Healy, L Grey (1-0); C Early, B Duffy; N Sharkey, O McGuinness, C McKeever; D Nally, C Byrne (0-2), R Burns (1-2 ,1m, 1f).

Subs: C Fleming for McGuinness (45 mins), T Durnin for Duffy (45 mins), C Clarke for Grey (52 mins), T McEneaney (0-1 free) for Healy (52 mins), E Moore for Burns (58 mins), TJ Doheny for Moore (66 mins).

Offaly: P Dunican (0-1, 1 45'); C Donnelly, K Dolan, N Darby; R Egan, J Moloney, J O'Connor; M Tynan, A Leavy; B Carroll, D Hyland (0-2,2 frees), C Mangan; J Bryant, N McNamee (0-4,3 frees), B Allen (0-2, 2 frees).

Subs: J Darcy (0-1) for Bryant (18 mins), A Sullivan for Carroll (22 mins), C Donoghue for M Tynan (h/t), R McNamee (0-4) for Hyland (49 mins), M Abbott for Allen (50 mins), C Donohoe for Moloney (52 mins), J Hayes for Leavy (52 mins), D Egan for Mangan (55 mins) C Burns for Donnelly (55 mins), L Egan for Darcy (55 mins), I Duffy (0-1 free ) for Dunican (57 mins), D Molloy for N McNamee.

Referee: D Byrne (Wicklow)

Laois 2-14 Wicklow 1-11

After conceding six goals and losing by 15 points to Wexford in their first outing of 2022, the Laois footballers have picked things up since then with Saturday’s six-point win over Wicklow in Crettyard their second O’Byrne Cup win in four days.

Billy Sheehan’s new-look Laois side got the better of Meath on Wednesday and despite making 11 changes, followed that up with an encouraging win over Wicklow.

There was little between the sides for long stretches though Rory Stokes’ punched goal gave Wicklow a three-point lead by the 31st minute. Laois responded with four points on the trot though and were 0-11 to 1-7 up at half=time.

By the second water break Wicklow were back on level terms - 0-12 to 1-9 - but Laois struck for two goals in the final quarter - from subs Evan O’Carroll and Sean Moore - to put the game beyond Wicklow.

The result means Laois will finish in top spot in the table and awaiting a result from the Meath-Wexford game to decide who goes through to Wednesday’s semi-final against Kildare.

For Wicklow, attention now turns to their Division Three National League opener against Westmeath on January 29th. Laois play Louth in the same division in the opening round.

Laois: M Byron; C Ugochuckwu, T Collins, A Mohan; C Fennessy, A Farrell, C Brennan; K Lillis, B Daly (0-1); C Murphy (0-1), P Kingston (0-2), D O'Reilly; R Munnelly (0-3, 1m), E Lowry (0-1), G Walsh (0-4, 3f).

Subs: A Campion, J Finn, J Kelly, B Byrne, C Doyle, P Dunne, E O'Carroll (1-0), S Moore (1-0), M Barry (0-2), S O'Flynn

Wicklow: M Jackson (0-1, 1 free); T Moran, M Stone, E Murtagh (0-1); A Maher (0-1), Z Cullen, N Donnelly; D Healy, P O'Toole; C Maguire, M Kenny (0-3, 1 free), D Fitzgerald (0-1); R Stokes (1-0), K Quinn (0-2), E Darcy (0-2, 2 frees).

Subs: E Doyle, A Dillon, F O'Shea, J Snell, JP Hurley, O Cullen, S O'Dowd, G Fogarty, D Devereaux, C Byrne

Referee: L Moore (Kildare)

Meath 1-15 Wexford 1-10

Victory for Meath in the O’Byrne Cup, belatedly after their midweek defeat to Laois, but ultimately it counted for nought with their interest in the pre-season competition now over.

Wexford needed to win to advance to the semi-finals as group winners but trailed virtually from pillar to post at the Donaghmore-Ashbourne club grounds.

A 17th minute goal from Jordan Morris gave Meath a vital cushion throughout and the 43rd minute sending off of Wexford’s Martin O’Connor, for a combination of black and yellow card offences, made the job of Andy McEntee’s side a little easier.

McEntee rolled in a series of substitutes of which James Conlon impressed most, picking off four points from play in the second-half.

There was a start for county title winner Saran O Fionnagain of Wolfe Tones while David McEntee, Jordan Muldoon and county junior finalist Eoin Harkin of Dunsany also featured.

Ben Brosnan was best for Wexford, helping himself to 1-5 and his 49th minute goal left just a point between the teams at 1-10 to 1-9.

But the visitors only added one more point while Meath closed out the game strongly with scores from Jack O’Connor, Conlon and Donal Keogan to generate some momentum for themselves ahead of a National League Division 2 opener with Galway on January 30th.

Meath: H Hogan; R Clarke, D Keogan (0-1), E Harkin; C Hickey (0-1), S McEntee, J McEntee; P Harnan, E Devine (0-1); T O'Reilly, C O'Sullivan (0-3, 0-2 frees), M Costello; J Morris (1-1, 0-1 free), S Walsh (0-3, 0-2 frees), S O Fionnagain.

Subs: R Ryan for Harkin (31 mins), J Conlon (0-4) for Morris (h-t), J O’Connor (0-1) for O Fionnagain (45 mins), D McEntee for O’Reilly (51 mins), J Muldoon for Clarke (55 mins), N Kane for J McEntee and D Dixon for Costello (67 mins).

Wexford: D Brooks; D Furlong, E Porter, G Sheehan; P Hughes (0-1), M O'Connor, G Malone (0-1 free); D Lyons, L Coleman; A Tobin, D O'Toole (0-2), T Byrne; K O'Grady (0-1 free), E Nolan, B Brosnan (1-5, 0-3 free).

Subs: M Rossiter for Brosnan (blood sub), Robbie Brooks for O’Toole (55 mins), N Hughes for Lyons (58 mins).

Referee: S Johnson (Louth).

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