Offaly Express view on Saturday

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Offaly Express view on Saturday

Postby athlumneyboy » Wed Jul 09, 2008 10:52 am

Offaly aim to lay ghost of recent Limerick defeats to rest



« Previous « PreviousNext » Next »View GalleryOFFALY'S recent record against Limerick doesn't make pleasant reading however the Treaty County are the last side of note that the 'Faithful' has got the better of during the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers.
In 2003 at Semple Stadium, the Whelahan brothers returned to Mike Mac's fold and helped Offaly to a Thursday, July 17 1-18 to 0-14 win.
In four meetings since, between league and championship, the spoils have gone to Limerick - 2004 NHL 1-13 to 1-6ADVERTISEMENT, 2006 Qualifier 2-29 to 2-19, NHL 2007 6-20 to 1-18 and NHL 2008 5-19 to 1-17.
The total differential is fifty points and this gives some indication of the psychological scars that Offaly must overcome as they prepare to make the trip to the Gaelic Grounds this Saturday, July 12 to face the home side at 7pm.
The game will be televised live on RTE 2 and coincidentally the qualifier game of 2003, where David Franks and Brendan Murphy turned in outstanding performances, was also screened live. A good omen there? Offaly folk will be hoping so.
Last Thursday evening, Offaly U-21's defeated their Limerick counterparts, coached by Ciaran Carey, in a challenge game at O'Connor Park and that won't have done the senior players confidence any harm at all.
Offaly also overcame Clare in a senior challenge at the same venue so preparations have gone reasonably well for Joe Dooley's charges.
Dooley and his selectors Pat McLoughney and Brendan Kelly will have to plan without Kilcormac/Killoughey's Ger Healion who is recovering from a broken thumb, while Alan Egan, Derek Molloy and Paul Cleary are also on the doubtful list.
Kilkenny, just as they did to Wexford in last Sunday's Leinster Final, let out their fiercesome claws against Offaly in the provincial semi-final.
When Offaly trailed by 0-4 to 0-5 after 22 minutes it looked like a contest was in store but the 'Cats' powered home afterwards to a 2-24 to 0-12 victory. In the quarter-final Offaly destroyed Laois by 4-22 to 2-12.
Offaly went 'hip to hip' with Kilkenny for the best part of thirty-five minutes but they couldn't sustain the intensity for seventy minutes or cope with the immense physicality of their opponents.
Limerick's 'big men' have tormented Offaly in recent times and they've netted eleven goals to Offaly's two in the last two league meetings between the counties.
Straight away, for the 'Faithful' to have any chance, they mustn't leak as many goals.
In fairness, in the face of incredible pressure, the Offaly rearguard hurled spiritedly against Kilkenny and goalkeeper Brian Mullins, David Kenny, Ger Oakley, David Franks, Michael Verney and Diarmuid Horan will have to do likewise against Limerick.
Kevin Brady, who didn't start against Kilkenny due to a hamstring problem, is likely to be included from the start with Rory Hanniffy joining Conor Mahon at mid-field.
What shape the Offaly attacking formation will take isn't very clear. With Healion out, and doubts hanging over Molloy and Cleary, it ties the hands of management somewhat. U-21 captain Joe Bergin will be fit to start and that is a major plus, but the likes of Brendan Murphy and Dylan Hayden need to up their performance levels. James Rigney, Shane Dooley and Joe Brady will also be pressing hard for starting places.
The Offaly attack has been very reliant on top scorer Brian Carroll and if they are to advance to the next round of the qualifiers, where Waterford or Galway await them, they'll need a greater contribution from all six forwards.
Interestingly, if you look at the last three results between Offaly and Limerick, Offaly have had little problem scoring points and that is something they must draw encouragement from.
Limerick boss Richie Bennis is hoping that Brian Geary and Denis Moloney will be available for selection. Both are recovering fitness after undergoing cruciate ligament operations and they've lined out for their respective clubs, Monaleen and Doon, in recent weeks. They also played in a challenge game against Dublin where Limerick won comfortably.
Donal O'Grady is carrying a slight knock, but he should be ready for action. Adare duo Wayne McNamara and Conor Fitzgerald are still unavailable although Fitzgerald did come on a sub during a local senior football championship fixture.
Last year's All-Ireland Finalists went down to Mike Mac's Clare by 4-12 to 1-16 in the Munster SHC semi-final and they'll be keen to bounce back from that reversal and prove that the heroics they produced in '07 weren't a fluke.
Limerick fielded a near full strength side against Offaly in the league earlier this year in O'Connor Park and they won a terribly lop-sided match, that saw three players red carded, by 5-19 to 1-17.
Limerick had Niall Moran sent off (but the red card was subsequently rescinded) and Offaly had Ciaran Flannery and Derek Molloy dismissed.
Offaly were in experimental mode and had none of the Birr contingent, but even with a full complement they'd have struggled to match Limerick.
Damien Reale, Stephen Lucey, Paudie O'Dwyer and Mark Foley are decent defenders and Donal O'Grady was the best of the mid-fielders on duty that day. Ollie Moran, Sean O'Connor and Andrew O'Shaughnessy ran riot and with Donie Ryan, Niall Moran and Barry Foley hovering around the fringes, they have plenty of attacking options available.
Regardless of what has happeneded to-date this year, Offaly must head to the mid-West on Saturday with a positive attitude, cut down on the goals conceded, give it a good lash and be satisfied when they come in off the field, that they've left nothing on it.
If the Offaly players do that, anything could happen and hopefully they can remain in contention right up to the concluding minutes.
However the form guide points to a Limerick victory. They enjoyed a better NHL campaign, would have been far closer to Clare were it not for the clumsy goals they gave away and one suspects they won't be as kind to Offaly.
athlumneyboy
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