By Frank Brady
Offaly and Cork footballers had the honor of kicking off opening day. With good weather, bright sunshine, a sizable crowd, a good program of games and luscious green grass carpeting the field, except for the scab in the corner, conditions were near perfect. However there were enough lines from the sports of soccer, lacrosse and softball to make the field look like a poorly kept geometry book.
Strangely, the GAA lines were scarce and sporadic, with meandering flags roughly outlining the requisite dimensions. Surely such a shabby and shoddy image does not present a favorable image, especially with visitors in town. Such a glaring oversight should be addressed immediately.
Meanwhile, Offaly and Cork got down to the business at hand, with the Faithful County advancing comfortably by a score of 4-8 to 1-4. For the last few seasons, Offaly have been the pace setters in this division, only to falter at the final hurdle. This season they certainly wear the favorite mantle and they will be eager to finally move to the premier division.
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They were fast out of the blocks Sunday as Noel Coughlan rifled a rebound to the net after only three minutes. Stephen O’Shea quickly replied for Cork before center forward John Mason dodged and dashed by several defenders to extend their lead. Offaly then had a let off and Cork a letdown as Tadgh O’Callaghan’s rasper caromed off the crossback. O’Shea answered with another Cork point, while Mason did likewise for Offaly. Then on the stroke of halftime, Pat Mahoney lofted over a great effort from beyond the 50-yard mark to leave a goal between the sides.
The second half bore little resemblance to the first as Offaly set about burying the Cork challenge. Danny Leavy was in scintillating form at full forward, while James Mitchell was running rampant through the middle. On a slick move with Leavy, Mitchell began an Offaly scoring spree. A speculative Leavy lob ended up in the net as the sun appeared to blind the Cork keeper. Ten minutes into the second half, Offaly had leaped to a 3-6 to 0-4 lead, courtesy of another Coughlan goal and further points from Mitchell and Sheehan. At this stage it was all Offaly with the only digression being a little rumble in the Offaly goalmouth as the keeper was dispossessed and dispatched to the ground while attempting a clearance.
Midway through the half, Cork burst back to life as the burly Morgan Burns stretched every muscle to grab a good cross and quickly fed it to Stephen O’Shea. Now the Offaly net was rattling, but the Cork revival was short lived as Leavy delivered the killer blow with a well-taken goal, aided by a quick flick from Brendan Moran. Finishing points from Dan Sheehan and Fergal Moran iced the cake.
Overall it was a fit, fast and cohesive display by a well-oiled Offaly machine, with Kieran Farrelly, the Dolans, Sean Nolan, James Mitchell, John Mason, Noel Coughlan, Brendan Moran, and Danny Leavy being particularly impressive. Cork did well to stay in touch in the first half, but they could offer only minimal resistance in the second. Nonetheless, the Mahoney brothers, C.J. Dougherty, Stephen O’Shea, Tadgh O’Callaghan, the Lally brothers, and Morgan Burns battled to the end.
Offaly: Kieran Farrelly, Mark Dolan, Sean Nolan, Eddie Flynn, Michael Dolan, Enda Condron, Brian Delaney, Chris Willis, James Mitchell, Nigel Kearney, John Mason, Noel Coughlan, Brendan Moran, Danny Leavy, Dan Sheehan. Subs: Trevor Willis, Evan Lester, Fergal Moran, Warren Beatty, Patrick Treacy, Francis Cox.
Cork: Kevin Grady, Any Mullins, Seamus Foley, Dennis Mahoney, Jeremy Holland, C.J. Doherty, Enda Lally, Pat Mahoney, Jamie Lally, Stephen O’Shea, Dennis Kiely, Sean O’Flynn, Tadgh O’Callaghan, Morgan Burns, Brendan Wiley.
Referee: Seamus Collins.