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Offaly footballers stun holders Kerry

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN — It’s long way from the days of championship summer, but last weekend Offaly laid down a marker for more important occasions to come. The Leinster county’s impressive 1-18 to 0-10 victory over All-Ireland title holders Kerry at Tullamore may turn out to be a flash in a the pan, but in the short term it has revitalized their hopes reaching the National Football League semifinals.

Even with limited preparation for this Div. 1A game — many of Kerry’s squad have either been on holiday or on the All Stars trip to Dubai — Paidi O Se’s team might have expected to at least run Offaly much closer, but the home side were simply far too sharp and well organized.

Despite quality opposition in Mike Frank Russell and Dara O Cinneide, Offaly’s defense was outstanding, with Cathal Daly, Ger Rafferty and Gary Comerford in superb form. If Daly stood out as the game’s quality performer, there was yet another intelligent display in attack from the evergreen Vinny Claffey, who scored 7 points, including 0-4 from play.

Claffey was a constant thorn in the Kerry rearguard with his opportunism and movement, while Ciaran McManus made several storming runs from midfield.

"We’ve no excuses," O Se said. "We’ve done no football yet. Sometimes the mind is willing, but the body is weak. There are no shortcuts, we’ve got to put the heads down now."

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The first half was close enough and a well-taken Donie Ryan goal gave Offaly a 1-7 to 0-7 advantage at the interval. Kerry were overwhelmed during the second half, conceding 11 points and scoring just 3.

"We’ve four weeks training behind us, and they’ve been on holidays," reflected Offaly manager Padraig Nolan. "That’s the difference, but I still thought the team played well and we can improve."

So plenty of Offaly promise and a harsh dose of realism for Kerry.

"Better it happened now than in May or June," O Se said.

Kingdom supporters won’t be disagreeing.

Roscommon 0-12, Dublin 0-10

Dublin are still without a win following Sunday’s disappointing loss to Roscommon at Parnell Park. Five points clear coming up to the break and generating chances seemingly at will, the Dubs fell apart in the second half. Both Jason Sherlock and Ciaran Whelan were sent off for rash challenges, and although Roscommon’s Frankie Dolan joined them for an early shower, Nigel Dineen picked off the vital points to give the visitors’ an important victory.

"I just don’t know how we lost it," said a dejected Dublin manager, Tom Carr. "We didn’t compete, we didn’t contest, we didn’t have the discipline and we didn’t have the concentration. So players have to ask themselves questions about their commitment and their character. I’m not making any excuses about who was sent off; that’s not the reason why we lost. We obviously didn’t want it as badly as Roscommon."

Tyrone 0-13, Donegal 0-10

Desire was a relevant factor in Omagh, where Tyrone battled to a fourth successive League victory and put themselves on the brink of qualifying for the semifinals. The scoreline in the all-Ulster clash against Donegal just about reflected Tyrone’s superiority in a game in which Peter Canavan’s class once again made the difference.

Canavan contributed four points, including one free, in a vintage performance, while the winners showed their impressive state of health as emerging youngsters such as Declan McCrossan and Cormac McAnallen also caught the eye.

Meanwhile, another old stager, Tony Boyle, was a major influence for Donegal, who are still in with a chance of making the knockout stages.

Galway 2-17, Louth 0-12

Galway registered a third victory of the campaign when they trounced Louth at Drogheda. Last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists have the air of a side that could go all the way in the League. The scoring was distributed among several players, as John Donnellan, with 6 points, and Padraic Joyce and Derek Savage, with 1-2 apiece, made up the major share.

While Louth didn’t deserve to suffer such a heavy defeat, they made life difficult when they were only level at the break after playing with a strong breeze. Predictably, Galway pulled away, and when Savage pounced for a goal, Louth were always struggling to stay in contention.

Cavan 2-7, Meath 0-11

In Div. 1B, Cavan put themselves in good shape for a place in the knockout stages when they held out for a valuable 2-7 to 0-11 victory over neighbors Meath at Breffni Park. Now in second place in the table behind Mayo, Cavan were indebted to the goal-poaching talents of Jason Reilly as they recovered from a shaky start.

Reilly struck for two goals during the first half at a time when Cavan were playing into the wind and they duly led by 2-4 to 0-5 at the changeover. But Meath responded with substitute Mick O’Dowd making a major impact and they were just a point adrift with two minutes left when Donal Curtis blasted a great chance wide. Cavan quickly capitalized and Finbar O’Reilly converted a free to secure the victory.

Mayo 2-14, Clare 1-9

Mayo kept up their 100 percent record with a comfortable triumph over Clare in Castlebar. Stephen Carolan and sub Michael Moyles scored the all-important goals, while Maurice Sheridan recovered his old freetaking form with 5 points.

Derry 1-14, Sligo 1-10

Sligo failed to emulate Mayo as their run came to an end at Celtic Park, where Anthony Tohill produced an outstanding individual performance for Derry.

"What other midfielder in the country could dominate a game such as that and kick 1-6 into the bargain?" said Derry’s manager, Eamonn Coleman. "He was awesome, the best midfielder ever to have played the game."

Laois 1-15, Fermanagh 0-13

Laois lifted themselves off the foot of the table with a victory over a sloppy Fermanagh side at Brewster Park. Aside from injury problems to five of their starting lineup, Fermanagh squandered far too much possession and Rory Gallagher fluffed a penalty chance to make matters worse. Noel Garvan scored Laois’ goal, while Chris Conway weighed in with 5 points.

Div. 2A, 2B

In Div. 2A, Armagh managed to close the gap at the top of the table when they hammered Westmeath by 3-13 to 1-7, while Cork’s scheduled game against London was postponed. Wicklow edged out Leitrim by 2-9 to 2-8 at Aughrim, where Leitrim were angry at being denied what they believed was a legitimate penalty, and Antrim got the better of Limerick by 1-7 to 0-8.

Down maintained their unbeaten record in Div. 2B with a 0-15 to 0-10 victory over Longford at Newry, and Kildare defeated Carlow by 0-11 to 0-7. Both Monaghan and Wexford managers were incensed when their game in Gorey was called off just 15 minutes before the throw-in. Monaghan had traveled the day before the match and felt that the pitch inspection should have been made earlier.

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