Offaly snatch late win

 

Two six-footers named Ciaran, Offaly's McManus and Tyrone's McBride, demonstrated the art of the overhead flick for superb second-half goals at Dungannon yesterday. McManus's score, as part of Offaly's barnstorming finish, was the more significant for, coming in the 26th minute of the second half, it afforded Tyrone insufficient time to recover.

Offaly manager Tommy Lyons said with obvious delight: "We scored 1-2 in the last five minutes. It's a great result to take out of Dungannon. I heard Kerry were beaten. It's not going to be any fun going to play Sligo next."

For Offaly, the Dungannon ground which yesterday housed 6,000 is hardly the lions' den it is reputed to be. Since the Leinster champions won there in 1984, the venue had repeatedly proved a graveyard for visiting teams until Cavan registered a win at the ground last year.

Offaly's grandstand finish wiped out an otherwise mediocre display which saw their attack fail to capitalise on a much higher percentage of chances than Tyrone created. "Yes, we struggled for too long but we are learning all the time," reflected Lyons.

The close marking and the heavy pitch were not to Offaly's liking. Their defence, always under threat by Tyrone's close, if not always tidy passing, had to be reshuffled as early as the sixth minute when corner back Cathal Daly hobbled off. But the welcome return of Finbar Cullen at centre back made for a steadying influence.

Cullen, in fact, got forward to contribute to Offaly's late scoring bonanza with his team's last point.

Tyrone's nippy left corner forward Damien Gormley was causing problems for the Offaly defence, taking the first time delivery well but Offaly's cover did well enough to hold the home side scoreless from the 12th to the 31st minute of the first half.

Offaly's half forward Ronan Mooney, who later switched wings with Colm Quinn, was the unluckiest player on the pitch not to have put his name on a goal. He took on the Tyrone defence coming in from the left but his searing shot somehow stayed out after striking the underside of the crossbar.

Offaly had opened their account with a Shane Manley pointed free after only 40 seconds. They possibly deserved to be ahead at half-time with McManus and James Grennan having done well against Sean Corr and Jody Gormley. Instead, the sides were level at 0-5 each at the break.

Jody Gormley was one of six players to be booked and was perhaps lucky not to have been sent off in the first half as McManus was being attended to.

Offaly resumed disappointingly with Quinn and Manley failing to get the range for points from inside the 20-metre line, a situation that compounded the Leinster side's eventual tally of nine wides against four for Tyrone.

Tyrone's goal came when Vinny Claffey lost possession and the ball was smartly delivered to the other end for McGuckian to set up Ciaran McBride for his flicked goal that left Padraig Kelly stranded. This gave Tyrone 1-5 to 0-5 lead.

It did not help Offaly morale later on when Cullen failed to see James Grennan and John Kenny completely unmarked in front of the Tyrone goal. But all was soon forgiven.

Claffey started Offaly's winning onslaught to narrow the gap to a point at 0-9 to 1-7, and then within a minute came McManus's goal. Fittingly it was Peter Brady who spotted Tyrone's defence in disarray and he sent a long and accurate ball to McManus, who caught Finbar McConnell sufficiently off his line to flick a perfect lob to the net. Cullen tacked on a point with a couple of minutes remaining but it was obviously out of Tyrone's reach even though McGuckian, with a pointed free, pulled one back.

Danny Ball, the Tyrone manager voiced what we are all still wondering about Offaly in the post-match team talk. "I don't know what ye were doing in Division Four. You're a Division One team and we hope to meet ye there next season".

Ball was sporting enough not to mention the fact that his attack was short of sharp shooters Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher. But still, as Lyons retorted: "It was our key players who did the business at the end of the day."

Offaly: P Kelly; C Daly, B Malone, T Coffey; J Kenny, F Cullen (0-1), P O'Reilly; C McManus (1-0), J Grennan; C Quinn, S Grennan (0-1), R Mooney; P Brady (0-2), S Manley (0-4, frees), V Claffey (0-2). Subs: D Foley for Daly (6 mins), K Claffey for Manley (54 mins).

Tyrone: F McConnell; P Devlin, N Donnelly, F Devlin; S McLaughlin, C Holmes, C Lawn; S Corr, J Gormley (0-1); S Lawn (0-1), B Eccles, C Loughran; B McGuckian (0-3, frees), C McBride (1-2), D Gormley (0-1). Subs: G Cavlan for Lawn (24 mins), D Teague for F Devlin (39 mins), F Logan for Eccles (41 mins).

Referee: B Crowe (Cavan).