OFFALY v DOWN Croke Park, 2.00 Referee M Daly (Mayo) Live, TG4, 1.45 If you want a match loaded with tradition, here it is. It might be wrapped up without any fanfare and tossed in as an undercard but Down and Offaly produced some great football in seminal matches when they met in the past.
With both sides desperate for some form of silverware, tradition may kick in here and the football may just belie the billing.
When Down come to Croke Park for a national final, they don't normally lose. Offaly, meanwhile, haven't been here since they met Dublin in a Leinster semi-. nal three years ago. Almost every other team in Leinster has had a day out at Jones' Road since but if things had worked out differently, Offaly could have been in the last four Leinster finals. They know now that it's time to shed the nearly tag and start getting somewhere.
From the outset of the league, both sides targeted today's destination. A league . nal date wasn't really on Donegal minds two weeks ago but it was a game that Down just had to win. Donegal had trimmed them in their last two championship meetings and Down had to lay down a marker that they won't be walked over anymore.
They won't be because of their increased physical bulk and strength as well as their capacity to score goals. With 15 green . ags in eight games, they've hit the net more than any other side this spring. If Liam Doyle and Shane Ward continue to play-make like they're capable off and Doyle lands the frees, they'll reach a decent target. If the goals dry up though, they could be in trouble.
Kildare didn't look up for it two weeks ago but 1-16 was an impressive tally and Offaly's scoring spread up front all season has been one of their key strengths. While young Niall McNamee has shown the class that marks him out as one of the best young players in Leinster, he hasn't been overburdened. With Ciaran McManus always good for a few scores from midfield, Offaly seem to be getting the balance right.
Offaly's consistency has been their hallmark since early March so they will strike the first blow of the summer.
OFFALY P Kelly; S Sullivan, C Evans, S Brady; B Mooney, C Daly, K Slattery; C McManus, J Grennan; P Kelleghan, R Malone, A McNamee; C Quinn, N Coughlan, N McNamee DOWN M McVeigh; M Higgins, A Molloy, A Scullion; M Cole, Sean Ward, S Farrell; G McCartan, B Coulter; L Doyle, Shane Ward, J Lavery; R Sexton, D Gordon, D Hughes