Straight knockout football returns - but with no fans allowed

For the first time 2000, Offaly will take part in a Leinster SFC match with no safety net of the All-Ireland qualifiers in place when they host Carlow in Tullamore today (Sunday), throw-in 1.30pm.

Back in 2000, Offaly dethroned then All-Ireland champions Meath (0-13 to 0-9), before they were defeated (after a replay) by eventual Leinster winners Kildare in the semi-finals.

The All-Ireland qualifiers were introduced for the following year’s championship and they have been a permanent fixture since.

However, with the Covid-19 pandemic drastically changing the sporting landscape this year, there will no ‘back door’ element to the 2020 All-Ireland SFC.

The winner of the Offaly v Carlow game will advance to a Leinster quarter-final clash with Kildare, while the losing team will bow out completely.

Offaly finished their Allianz Football League Division 3 campaign with a defeat to Derry in Tullamore last Sunday (1-12 to 1-10).

John Maughan’s side went into the game safe from relegation and with promotion well out of reach.

Wind-assisted Derry dominated the first half and led 1-9 to 1-1 at half-time, with Offaly’s goal coming from Tullamore’s Aaron Leavy, who will make his championship debut against Carlow (see team line-up below).

With Anton Sullivan making a big impact off the bench, Offaly rallied in the second half. Sullivan’s Rhode colleague Niall McNamee was also introduced as a substitute and his 0-5 contribution helped Offaly to push the Oak Leaf men close.

Offaly’s focus now turns to the championship and they will be looking for a more consistent display against the Carlow men.

Carlow are now managed by Niall Carew after Turlough O’Brien stepped down earlier this year. Carew is a former Sligo manager who also had a spell as coach/selector with his native Kildare.

The Barrowsiders are set to be without two key players on Sunday in Brendan Murphy and Sean Murphy. For their part, Offaly will be missing Ferbane attacker Cian Johnson.

Carlow failed to pull up any trees in their Division 4 league campaign and Offaly will be expected to emerge victorious. At the time of writing, BoyleSports have Offaly priced as 2/5 favourites with Carlow listed at 5/2.

If the game finishes in a draw, extra-time will be played, with the ‘winner on the day’ stipulation in place. In line with current restrictions, the game will be played behind closed doors, but it will be available to view on www.gaago.ie.

Offaly team v Carlow

1. Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks)

2. Declan Hogan (Tullamore)

3. Eoin Rigney (Rhode)

4. Niall Darby (Rhode, captain)

5. Eoin Carroll (Cappincur)

6. Johnny Moloney (Tullamore)

7. Colm Doyle (Clara)

8. Aaron Leavy (Tullamore)

9. Jordan Hayes (Edenderry)

10. Shane Horan (Kilmacud Crokes)

11. Ruairi McNamee (Rhode)

12. Anton Sullivan (Rhode)

13. Niall McNamee (Rhode)

14. Peter Cunningham (Bracknagh)

15. Bernard Allen (Tubber)

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