Offaly players before last Sunday's Walsh Cup match versus Wexford at St Brendan's Park, Birr. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Offaly to finish Walsh Cup with local derby

By Kevin Egan

While on paper there’s nothing wrong with a three-point defeat to Wexford, the feeling walking out of St Brendan’s Park last Sunday wasn’t anything like as positive as it was for Offaly fans coming out of Callan a week previously.

Oisín Kelly’s first-half goal kept Offaly in touch in a game where Wexford were comfortably the better team, both in terms of their physicality and power, and in their tactics and decision-making on the ball.

Once Darragh Egan sprung his heavy hitters off the bench, Diarmuid O’Keeffe further shored up a backline that was already in control, Conor McDonald (who had done very little training as his partner recently had a baby) chipped in with two points, and Lee Chin fired in a goal that pushed the lead out to eight.

Offaly’s response in the closing minutes was good, but it was putting lipstick on a pig of a performance, unlike the contest with Kilkenny where the Faithful men were far more competitive.

Admittedly, Ciarán Burke’s red card changed the game, but in a situation where the opposition is consistently running at you through the middle, drawing fouls and putting defenders in tough, one-on-one situations, then yellow cards will accrue, and red cards become far more likely. In a championship situation under the new rules, Offaly could even have conceded a penalty in the first half as well.

Still, as preparation goes, the games have served Johnny Kelly and his selectors well, and this Sunday there is a great chance to end the January campaign on a high note, with Laois coming to Tullamore (2pm).

Willie Maher is still trying to put together his best team in advance of what will be a very tough league campaign for the O’Moore men, but with a win over Wexford under their belts, he can still afford to experiment a little and not get too hung up on the result. For Offaly, a win and a strong performance would mean a lot more, so hopefully that might make a difference.

Offaly team (Walsh Cup v Laois): Stephen Corcoran (Coolderry); Joe Hoctor (Carrig & Riverstown), Padraig Cantwell (Shamrocks), Jack Screeney (Kilcormac/Killoughey); Conor Hardiman (Kinnitty), Joey Keenaghan (Clodiagh Gaels), Conor Molloy (Coolderry); Adrian Cleary (Shinrone), Conor Langton (Clodiagh Gaels); Brian Duignan (Ballinamere), Eoghan Parlon (Coolderry), Jack Clancy (Belmont); Paddy Clancy (Belmont), Shane Dooley (Tullamore), Eoghan Cahill (Birr).