Offaly's league outlook hinges on clash with struggling Longford
On the face of it, four points from the first four games of the season isn’t a crisis for Offaly by any stretch of the imagination. Given the level of player transition, and the way the season fell with the two obvious front runners for promotion as opponents in back to back weeks, finishing in the top two was always likely to be a tough ask.
Moreover, the fact that Longford and Tipperary are struggling at the bottom of the division, with just one point each after four games, means that while relegation is still a possibility, it would take a significant dip in form for Offaly to get dragged into that battle to the point that falling to Division Four is still on the table by the end of the month, when Down come to Glenisk O’Connor Park.
There can be no doubt either that while Cavan look like the class act in the division, there was a gulf in class between the sides on Sunday in Tullamore, and that is a slight concern.
Without ever really hitting the high notes, Cavan easily contained Offaly in the first half, scoring eleven points into the wind, and if it wasn’t for the black card in the second, the margin of victory could have been higher.
The previous week, a six-point margin flattered Westmeath, and it wouldn’t have taken a lot for Offaly to be a lot closer on the scoreboard. This time around was different, and that will have led to a certain amount of soul-searching during the week.
All that said, the schedule is still falling nicely for Offaly. Longford and Tipperary are in crisis at the moment, with Tipperary ravaged by injuries while Longford played their best team the whole way through the O’Byrne Cup, and now don’t have the players in reserve to step in and shake things up when they’ve lost their way a bit.
Paddy Christie got a bit of a new manager bounce, but their failure to beat Tipp last time out means that they’re running out of chances to save themselves, and this week’s news that James McGivney and Gary Rogers have walked away from the squad will have sucked away any momentum that might have existed on the back of their late surge to salvage a draw last week.
If Offaly can win their next two games, which should be very realistic, there’s still a very good chance that the final day showdown with Down will be a promotion decider.
The debate about whether this Offaly team is ready to go back up to Division Two is another matter, but it’s still very much on the table, and unless there’s serious underperformance in Longford, it should still be on the table by next Sunday evening.