NFL Division 3 Final: Derry vs Offaly
By Paul Shaughnessy
Last weekend it looked as if there was going to be no league finals taking place. Offaly and Derry have both opted for the Division 3 National Football League final to take place in Croke Park on Saturday 19th June at 17:00pm where the game will be broadcasted live on TG4. Given the dominance of Dublin both sides will feel it will be a great chance to win a trophy at the GAA headquarters. 2,400 supporters will be lucky enough to be a present at this tie which should add to the occasion.
Derry and Offaly come into this tie unbeaten and both Rory Gallagher and John Maughan will hoping their sides can avoid any injuries with championship on the horizon.
Derry came through Division three north with minimal fuss winning all three of their group games with victories over Longford, Fermanagh and Cavan. Rory Gallagher's side have gained a lot of attraction this year where they have thrown the shackles off committing more bodies towards the attacking side of their game. After years of underachieving Derry finally seem to be turning their fortunes around. The Ulster side have scored a combined total of 6-67 across their four national league games and have only conceded a combined score of 2-38 which has seemed to give them the perfect balance between defense and attack. Niall Loughlin and Shane McGuigan have been proving a handful for the majority of the oppositions defenders across the National league. Former AFL star Conor Glass is giving the oak-leaf county a huge platform around the middle third with his impressive fielding.
If you had told Offaly they would be in this situation this time last year they would have bitten your hand off given that the faithful county were on the brink of relegation to Division 4 in 2020. Since then John Maughan's side have been steadily gaining momentum with an encouraging championship performance against Kildare in 2020 and victories over Wicklow, Limerick and Munster champions Tipperary which meant that the Leinster side topped Division 3 south where they faced Fermanagh last weekend in the Division 3 semi-final coming out on top by five points in the end on a scoreline of 1-14 - 0-12. Questions were asked last weekend would Offaly be able to break down Fermanagh and they managed to do this. Cian Farrell and Anton Sullivan have been providing Offaly a focus up front and the veteran Niall McNamee has been playing a role as a super sub this year which has helped them finished out the games.
GAA in Offaly is on a high at the moment with the structures put in place by chairman Michael Duignan and the boost of Shane Lowry coming on board as a sponsor has created a buzz around Offaly GAA. Offaly will be playing Division 1 football and hurling in 2022 which has created a feel good factor around the county after years of struggling.
This game has the potential to be a fascinating spectacle with both sets of forwards impressing throughout the league. In the end Derry should have too much with their experience particularly in defence with the likes of Chrissy McKaigue and Gareth McKinless which should shut out any trouble Offaly could cause.