All Ireland SFC R2: Offaly defeat Sligo
All Ireland SFC Round Two Qualifier
OFFALY 3-17 SLIGO 0-15
By Kevin Egan at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park
Offaly became the eighth and final county to secure their place in Monday morning’s qualifier draw thanks to a comfortable home win over Sligo, the first time in nine years that they’ve won two successive fixtures in the qualifier system.
Sligo came into this tie without a win in 17 months and it showed in the early exchanges as they struggled to keep pace with a far more fluid and mobile Offaly side. Peter Cunningham and Eoin Carroll handled a lot of ball in midfield and moved it quickly and effectively to help set up three early dead ball scores, before Cunningham changed tack and hoisted a long ball in towards Niall McNamee after nine minutes.
The veteran full forward proved why his return was such a boost to John Maughan as he leapt up to field the ball and held off Peter Laffey before blasting a low shot into the corner of the net.
Four minutes later the Sligo net rattled again after a wonderful team move. Cathal Mangan set up the attack with a superb mark at midfield and in a matter of seconds, Cunningham and Carroll helped to set up Shane Horan for his first championship goal for his adopted county.
Now seven points up and with the wind behind them, Offaly had established a strong foothold and might have felt that they could have wrapped up the wind before half time. Instead, not unlike their first-round win over London when they went 20 minutes without scoring, they had a poor second quarter and were second best to the Yeats County in that time.
Pat Hughes and Niall Murphy chipped in with good scores from close range, Darragh Cummins got forward to split the posts from 30 metres out and Sligo also came desperately close to raising a green flag of their own, only to be denied by a stunning save from Paddy Dunican in response to Paddy O’Connor’s low shot.
A brace of scores from Cathal Mangan seemed to settle the home side around the 25 minute mark but Sligo outscored their hosts by 0-5 to 0-2 for the rest of the half, the highlight from a Sligo point of view a lovely catch and kick score from Hughes on the edge of the square.
2-8 to 0-9 at half time but with Sligo’s wind advantage to come, the game was there to be seized by either team – and it was Offaly who seized it.
After five scoreless minutes at the start of the second half and wides at either end, Eoin Carroll burst past his man with a lovely flick of the ball to gain space and he set up Niall McNamee for a second goal, and almost immediately Sligo were a beaten team. Around the middle third the Yeats County competed well for breaking ball and earned their share of possession, but this was in part because they were forced to play Niall Murphy and Seán Carrabine in deeper roles, and they suffered close to goal.
Paddy Dunican, Shane Horan and Bernard Allen all tacked on points before Sligo finally broke a 19-minute scoring drought with a superb arcing kick from Barry Gorman, and that was far too little and too late for Paul Taylor’s men.
Scorers for Offaly: Niall McNamee 2-2 (1f), Bernard Allen 0-4 (1f), Shane Horan 1-1, Paddy Dunican 0-3 (2fs, 145), Cathal Mangan 0-2, Peter Cunningham. Eoin Carroll, Anton Sullivan, Niall Darby & David Dempsey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sligo: Niall Murphy 0-4 (1f), Sean Carrabine (2fs), Paddy O’Connor, Darragh Cummins, and Pat Hughes 0-2 each, Paul Kilcoyne, David Quinn and Barry Gorman 0-1 each.
OFFALY: Paddy Dunican; Declan Hogan, Eoin Rigney, David Dempsey; Cian Donohoe, Johnny Moloney, Niall Darby; Eoin Carroll, Peter Cunningham; Shane Horan, Anton Sullivan, Cathal Mangan; Bernard Allen, Niall McNamee, Ruairí McNamee.
Subs: Mark Abbott for R McNamee (51), Paul McConway for Sullivan (63), Joseph O’Connor for Mangan (64), Shane Tierney for N McNamee (69), Clint Horan for Hogan (70), Nigel Bracken for Horan (70+2).
SLIGO: Eamon Kilgallon; Paul McNamara, Peter Laffey, Nathan Mullen; Darragh Cummins, Keelan Cawley, Gerard O'Kelly Lynch; Paul Kilcoyne, Adrian McIntyre; Karl McKenna, Paddy O'Connor, Mickey Gordon; Seán Carrabine, Pat Hughes, Niall Murphy.
Subs: Neil Ewing for McKenna (9, black card), David Quinn for O’Connor (30, temp), Barry Gorman for Gordon (48), John F Carr for O’Kelly Lynch (51), Luke Nicholson for McIntyre (57), Quinn for O’Connor (62), Brian McGowan for Carrabine (70+2).
REFEREE: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).