McNamee set for return to Offaly fold in time for league
NIALL McNamee is expected to return to the Offaly football panel within the coming weeks despite not being included in manager Gerry Cooney's new squad.
"Niall is just taking some time out at the moment and getting over a knock, but I am in regular contact with him and am very hopeful he will be back with us in time for the National League," Cooney said.
That will bring some new year cheer to Offaly fans, who are hoping that Cooney's arrival will haul their football fortunes out of the doldrums.
McNamee threatened to quit the county scene last autumn in frustration at the undue delay in appointing a successor to the county's outgoing manager Tom Cribbin.
But confirmation that he will soon be back in the Faithful County jersey is a huge boost, as is the return of Anton Sullivan (20) the exciting forward from Rhode who was out of action for most of last year with a shoulder injury.
However, Sullivan will not be available for the O'Byrne Cup as he is one of five Offaly players who are college-tied, along with Bernard Allen, David Egan, John Maloney and Sean Pender.
Cooney acknowledged that 2012 will be very much about "rebuilding". "We've lost a few, we've let a few go and we've brought in some new players, but they've all been working hard on their gym programmes and are very eager to work and get going," Cooney said.
One of the newcomers is Kilmacud Crokes' Brian Hanamy, who has declared for Offaly through the parentage rule.
Hanamy is the second Dublin-born player to switch to Offaly in recent years. John Coughlan, who lined out for the Dubs' U-21s, made the move two seasons ago but he has indicated to the new management that he is unable to make the commitment for the coming season.
Offaly's first competitive game of 2012 will be a home O'Byrne Cup game against Westmeath in Tullamore on Sunday week.
Elsewhere, Kilkenny's footballers have pulled out of the O'Byrne Cup, which means Louth have received a bye to the quarter-finals on January 15, when they will face the winners of Meath versus Wexford.