All-Ireland SFC: Allen inspires Offaly to beat London
All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers first round
OFFALY 1-21 LONDON 1-11
By Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park
An incredible display of shooting from Bernard Allen was the difference between a tight finish and a comfortable win for Offaly this afternoon in Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, as an 0-11 haul from the corner forward lit up this first round qualifier.
John Maughan’s side were sharper and more energetic throughout the contest, though a number of unforced errors ensured that they struggled to put London away. Rúairí McNamee’s goal after 52 minutes was the score that finally put any doubt about the result to bed and they tacked on seven more points from then on, though also conceding four as the contest became very open.
Right from the throw-in it looked as if the home side might accumulate a significant total in this game. Allen had two points to his credit from the first two attacks, while Anton Sullivan split the uprights from 45 metres out with an arcing kick that give an indication of how the wind was deceptively influential, favouring Offaly for the first 35 minutes.
London’s first possession inside the Offaly 45m line ended with a superb block from Declan Hogan but their second had a very different ending, with Liam Gavaghan driving in from the right corner to feed Killian Butler. The Tír Chonaill Gaels attacker scored one of the best goals of the season so far against Galway in the Connacht championship and his finish here was equally perfect, low and inside Paddy Dunican’s near post.
Offaly’s reply was ideal, with three more points scored by the 15th minute to regain their lead, but what followed was an error-ridden 20-minute spell in which both sides gave away possession quite easily, with London cutting the gap back to two thanks to a brace of points from Conor Doran.
With the home crowd getting nervous, another burst of scores before half time pushed Offaly four clear at the interval, 0-10 to 1-3. Anton Sullivan, Niall McNamee and Allen (twice) were all on the mark at this stage, but with the wind to come, London would have felt content to be as close as they were, even if the concession of four injury time points was a source of regret to manager Ciarán Deely afterwards.
Offaly continued in the same vein after half time with three more scores on the bounce, but again they hit a fallow period and London started to work their way back into the tie, with Conor Doran on the mark twice while Fearghal McMahon and Killian Butler added scores.
The small band of travelling supporters rose to greet veteran Lorcan Mulvey after he was introduced and the Cavan native proved his worth with a superb score from the left wing, but only after Offaly put real distance between the sides with a Ruairí McNamee goal.
Eoin Carroll broke a kickout to his midfield colleague Peter Cunningham, and a quick transfer of possession through Anton Sullivan left McNamee with an easy finish.
Some impressive scores were kicked in the final quarter by both teams, but the dip in intensity was notable as London were resigned to their fate as the first team to be eliminated from this year’s qualifiers, while Offaly knew that they had safely negotiated this hurdle and would take their place in Monday morning’s second round draw.
Scorers for Offaly: Bernard Allen 0-11 (0-5 frees), Rúairí McNamee 1-1, Anton Sullivan & Niall McNamee (0-1 free) 0-3 each, Cathal Mangan, Niall Darby & Shane Tierney 0-1 each.
Scorers for London: Conor Doran 0-6 (0-3 free), Killian Butler 1-1, Fearghal McMahon 0-2, Lorcan Mulvey & Liam Gavaghan 0-1 each.
Offaly: Paddy Dunican; David Dempsey, Declan Hogan, Eoin Rigney,; Cian Donohoe, Johnny Moloney, Niall Darby; Peter Cunningham, Eoin Carroll; Shane Horan, Anton Sullivan, Cathal Mangan; Bernard Allen, Niall McNamee, Rúairí McNamee. Subs used: Joseph O’Connor for Donohoe (28), Paul McConway for Horan (61), Mark Abbott for Mangan (63), Shane Tierney for R McNamee (66), Shane Nally for N McNamee (69), Conor Carroll for E Carroll (72)
London: Gavin McEvoy; Philip Butler, Matthew Moynihan, Conor O’Neill; David Carrabine, Michael Clarke, Eoin Flanagan; Anthony McDermott, Liam Feerick; Mark Gottsche, Liam Gavaghan, Fearghal McMahon; Killian Butler, Conor Doran, Barry Tully. Subs used: Noel Maher for McEvoy (HT), Lorcan Mulvey for Tully (47), Liam Gallagher for McDermott (47), Aidan McGarvey for Carrabine (54), David Dunne for McMahon (67).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)