'We're not out to win All-Irelands, we're out to do our best' - Dooley
Published 07/06/2016 | 02:30
The bell had been tolled on Offaly hurling just five weeks ago after a humiliating defeat to Westmeath in Mullingar, but the Faithful County have risen from the ashes, led by star forward Shane Dooley.
Suffering from a vomiting bug, the Tullamore ace lasted just 35 minutes on May 1 but he has since clocked 3-31 in three games, helping the Faithful to get their season back on track after a disastrous opening.
The heady days of the 1980s and '90s may be in the rear-view mirror but the spirit which propelled Offaly to win their four Liam MacCarthy titles in 17 years, between 1981 and 1998, was clear to see in Tullamore on Sunday.
They've knuckled down under new boss Eamonn Kelly and deserve their Leinster semi-final place against Galway, with Dooley (below) believing that the 19-point turnaround from last year's quarter-final defeat was the culmination of ferocious work since Kelly took the reins.
Dooley's unerring accuracy from placed balls, finishing with 1-11 including a second-half penalty, drove Offaly through stormy waters and while acknowledging that they are some way off hurling's top table, he expects them to continue to put their best foot forward now.
"That's all we're looking for. We're not looking to go and win All-Irelands. We are just looking to get the best out of ourselves and see what happens. This was one of those days where we clicked in the second half," he says.
"Losing as we did in Kilkenny in the League and then Westmeath beating us. . . Westmeath have shown since that they are no joke but still, we were disappointed - we expected to win that match.
"There was a lot of negativity surrounding the panel at the time but it shows the character of the panel that they stayed there and were able to win the games we needed to win, and beating Laois was huge."
Tipperary native Kelly enlisted the services of fellow county man and All-Ireland-winning coach Eamon O'Shea in the build-up to the tie and it showed as the Offaly attack fired 3-22 and bore no resemblance to their limp effort in Cusack Park last month.
"Eamonn (Kelly) has been promoting free hurling and to cover every blade of grass on the pitch and see what happens. It's great and there is a freshness in the panel and lads are encouraged to go and express themselves," Dooley says.
"Like you can see with Liam Langton coming in and selling dummies, for a young lad that's brilliant, that kind of play is encouraged and it's great to have that kind of positivity coming from the top down.
"We keep reaffirming work-rate, hooks, blocks, turnovers, all that kind of thing. It's re-said in the dressing room over and over again and once you get those things right, it's a starting point."
Dooley, who has tried to combine football and hurling this year, will now quickly turn his attention to the busy fortnight ahead with Sunday's football tie with Westmeath first on the agenda for the 29-year-old.
"Ah it's brilliant. The training regime some weeks has been tough but I am still trying to get my place on the panel (football)," he says.
"Both times I was pushing for a place but I hurt my hamstring and missed a few sessions. It was disappointing but hopefully if I stick at it, I will get a run soon."
Focus will then quickly shift to the Tribesmen. "If we get the performance the next day, we'll give Galway a good belt, he says."