Mulhall keen for Offaly to end nine-year wait for a win in Leinster
Published 11/05/2016 | 02:30
It hangs like a noose around their necks undermining their recent progress and captain Alan Mulhall feels the time is finally right for Offaly's footballers to secure their first win in a Leinster SFC game since 2007 and "get that monkey off our back".
Competitiveness has underpinned Pat Flanagan's reign with Mulhall believing his "experience" has been essential to their ascent. Their second successive promotion went narrowly astray on points difference but a new-found confidence is brewing.
The stakes are high when they welcome Longford to O'Connor Park on Sunday. It was a similar scenario 12 months ago when they failed to build on their Division 4 final demolition when falling by three but the Walsh Island goalkeeper feels that a win is now non-negotiable.
A victory also offers the carrot of a possible run through the weaker side of the Leinster draw, avoiding the Dubs, and Mulhall acknowledges that there's a massive opportunity for someone, Offaly he hopes, to grasp.
"Last year we messed up, there's no point in saying anything else," he said. "We were seven points up, we took our eye off the ball and by the time we knew where we were it was too late to change anything.
"It's very open this year but we just have to beat Longford and that's it. We have to get that monkey off our back. Everyone is saying it's a great side to be on and it is. All the teams played each other in Division 3 this year and won't fear each other."
The 33-year-old first stepped foot in an Offaly senior dressing-room in 2001 and has seen a lot in the subsequent years but he admits the demands of the modern game are a little more taxing than in the past.
"When I came in I started full-forward in a training game and Vinny Claffey was beside me and next thing he was moving and I thought we were training hard but looking at it now everything is way more meticulous," he said.
"The lads are so strict on their diet and the extra training sessions, there's no one leaving any stone unturned whereas before it was your talent and you worked really hard on the training pitch. Now the training pitch is a given and then all the extras have to be done every day."
This weekend will mark his 75th competitive outing for Offaly but "the same passion" is there that he had 15 years ago and he's eager to continue play his part in their "upward curve".
"Chatting to a few players from other counties and they'd all say, 'Jaysus, Offaly's physique is after changing and their style has changed'. It's great to hear that positive feedback, we know we're doing the right things," he said.