Round 1B Qualifier: Offaly beat spirited London
All Ireland Football Round 1B Qualifier
Offaly 0-17 London 1-7
By Kevin Egan at O’Connor Park, Tullamore
The hangover from Offaly’s defeat to Westmeath in the Leinster Football Championship was clearly visible in O’Connor Park as the Faithful County struggled to get themselves going in the early stages against London, falling into a five point deficit before rallying with 13 unanswered scores to put themselves into the second round of the All Ireland football qualifiers.
This contest was played at a pedestrian pace in the early stages as neither side could get on the scoresheet in the opening seven minutes. London’s danger men were isolated as their half forward line retreated into very deep positions, while Offaly opened with three wides and one shot dropped short into the hands of goalkeeper Gavin McEvoy.
A long range free from Mark Gottsche opened the scoring and Offaly replied well to this concession, led by Niall McNamee, who kicked two points in as many minutes.
That was to be a brief respite however as London produced an excellent spell of football for 15 minutes.
They were handed a huge boost when Peter Cunningham spilled a long ball in the small square and corner forward Patrick O’Hara was able to pounce on the break for a punched goal, and they didn’t waste that impetus, tacking on the next three points.
Adrian Moyles added a free and O’Hara struck a fine score on the break either side of a majestic kick from Liam Gavaghan, a 40 metre effort off the left hand touchline that was by far the most impressive score of the afternoon from either team.
Offaly finally roused themselves from their torpor and two interventions from midfielder Eoin Carroll got them back in the scoring habit – an excellent turnover at midfield led to Nigel Dunne splitting the uprights, while Carroll also earned a free with a driving run forward, Bernard Allen converting the placed ball.
A glorious chance to tie the game up was spurned when Anton Sullivan blasted the ball over the bar from close range with just the keeper to beat, but two further scores from Nigel Dunne ensured that the sides went into the dressing room all square, 0-7 to 1-4.
With a strong breeze at their backs in the second half, Offaly wasted no time in powering ahead and they extended their run of dominance to 13 points in succession by the hour mark.
Niall McNamee kicked two further points to push his tally out to 0-4 for the day, scores that moved him on to 4-52 in his qualifier career and up to 14th place overall in the all-time qualifier scoring charts (overtaking Tommy Freeman of Monaghan), yet no other forward really stood out for the Faithful County on the day to the same extent.
Nigel Dunne kicked his frees with accuracy and added three from play to do his share, but otherwise the Faithful County were very flat – while their inability to score a goal means that they have now failed to raise a green flag in nine out of 12 competitive starts in 2016, stretching back to the O’Byrne Cup in January.
London finally broke their duck in the last 10 minutes as substitutes Eoin Mageean and Dualtach Molloy found the target, but by now only the winning margin was in doubt as Offaly eased through this challenge and set themselves up with a chance to take a much bigger scalp in the rounds ahead.
*Scorers for Offaly: *N Dunne 0-7 (0-4f), N McNamee 0-4, B Allen 0-3 (0-2f), A Sullivan, N Bracken & N Darby 0-1 each.
*Scorers for London: *P O’Hara 1-1, M Gottsche (f), L Gavaghan, A Moyles (f), S Conroy (f), E Mageean & D Molloy 0-1 each.
*Offaly: *A Mulhall; B Darby, E Rigney, S Pender; N Darby, P Cunningham, J O’Connor; E Carroll, G Guilfoyle; J Moloney, A Sullivan, M Brazil; N Dunne, B Allen, N McNamee.
Subs: N Bracken for Moloney (44), J Gethings for Guilfoyle (53), W Mulhall for McNamee (58), J Lalor for B Darby (61), K Garry for A Mulhall (64), L Fox for Carroll (67).
*London: *G McEvoy; D Ryan, C Carty, P Butler; D McGreevy, C Healy, C Coyne; J Moran, M Gottsche; C Dunne, C Óg Greene, L Gavaghan; A Moyles, P O’Hara, S Conroy.
*Subs: *E Murray for Moran (49), K Butler for Coyne (52), C Dunne for Healy (61), E Mageean for Greene (62), C O’Neill for Ryan (64), D Molloy for O’Hara (67).
*Referee: *D Coldrick (Meath).