OFFALY BOUNCED BACK from a disappointing performance in the Division 3 final by seeing off Louth in yesterday’s marathon Leinster SFC round 1 contest.
The nature of the morale-sapping 12-point defeat to Derry at Croke Park left many wondering had John Maughan made a mistake in deciding to play the league decider as their Leinster championship opener loomed.
Louth, on the other hand, secured promotion from Division 4 but opted not to seek to play their final against Antrim.
But Maughan’s men showed few ill-effects from the Derry loss, steamrolling Louth by 2-4 to 0-1 during extra-time where their superior conditioning showed.
Maughan doubled down that the decision to play the league final was the correct one after the Faithful County set-up a quarter-final date with Kildare in Portlaoise next weekend.
“I had to pick up myself!” he admitted about the Croke Park defeat. “Yeah, it was disappointing to be honest with you. They were hurting a fair bit but thankfully we were turning around so quickly.
“That was a nice thing to get a game so quickly, so soon after a heavy defeat like that, to get the chance to get back and to address that aspect of it. Thankfully we came out (with the win).
These boys are footballers so they want to play football. I’d be a right clown if I turned down the opportunity to play in Croke Park.
“That’s what they want to do, they love playing football so it would have been a shambles if we’d turned that down. It was disappointing and they were hurting obviously after a 12-point defeat.
“But I mean, you get an opportunity to play in Croke Park, some of them had never been there, never mind played there. It was important that they got the experience and enjoyed that aspect of it.”
Offaly’s Shane Horan takes the ball forward.
Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO
Maughan’s third year in charge has been one of significant progress. Promotion to Division 2 was a major achievement and yesterday’s win was only their third in Leinster since 2007.
They’ve been progressing and there’s a lot of young fellas who want to play football for Offaly. A couple of years ago they probably didn’t, because it was slightly embarrassing but there’s nobody that turned down the opportunity to get involved which was nice to see.
“They’re a proud county, I remember in the ’70s watching the old team and I had the pleasure of playing with Sean Lowry in Mayo and my home club Crossmolina. They were superstars back in the day and I was on the same pitch as Matt Connor back in the day.
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“They were a super team so to see hurlers and footballers down at such a low ebb it’s disappointing if you’re a sportsman particularly if you’re a GAA man. Nobody likes to see that.
“People respect Offaly because they did something unique in 1982 stopping the five-in-a-row so there’s a soft spot in Offaly football. I felt nothing but encouragement since I came up to get involved with them and thankfully we’re enjoying days like this which is nice.”
Open champion and recently announced Offaly GAA partner Shane Lowry watched on from the main stand at Pairc Tailteann.
Niall McNamee, a year Lowry’s senior, was a late inclusion in the starting team and had a decisive impact when it was needed. He fired 1-3, assisted Peter Cunningham’s 84th minute goal and several others during the 86 minutes he featured for.
After appearing off the bench in all four league games, Maughan praised McNamee’s impact.
“He’s amazing. Niall McNamee’s a super footballer. I recall watching him playing for his club Rhode 15 or 16 years ago. He was just immense and I took a particular interest because I was at school with his Dad in Carmelite College, Moate, many years ago.
“Niall McNamee is highly respected, he’s an iconic footballer, he’s just a gem, he’s amazing. He’s very, very good in the dressing-room, he’s very, very good outside the dressing-room with the younger players in particular.
“It’s just marvellous, we don’t have to mind him, he’s playing so well in training, he’s a superstar.”
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Offaly’s fitness levels will be tested as they play their seventh game in eight weeks against Kildare in Portlaoise on Sunday at 4.30pm.
Jack O’Connor’s side beat Offaly by four points at the same stage last year, while Offaly’s first year under Maughan saw them suffer an agonising two-point loss to Meath.
“There was certainly an opportunity (against Kildare last year) and even here a couple of years ago against Meath as well,” he said.
“We’ve played well in the (Leinster) championship in both of our games but came away with nothing. Look it’s Kildare again who we know exceptionally well, they’ve Jack O’Connor involved there now so it’ll be tough there’s no question, it’s going to be big ask.
“We’ll go and play anyway and do the best we can and take some learnings from here and have a crack at it.”
Maughan said a victory over Kildare would “be just awesome.”
He added: “It would really propel you into a different scenario altogether. That would be brilliant if we did that, but we’ll just take little steps and see how we get on.”
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