Dooley: Offaly must find extra gear to test Galway
JOE Dooley has called for a delivery of Offaly pride to Croke Park on Sunday as the hurlers seek their first Leinster championship win there for six years.
The manager is also urging the fans to play their part by travelling in large numbers for what is a historic occasion as Offaly play Galway for the first time in the Leinster championship.
Offaly are 13/2 to beat Galway (1/12), which is a reflection of the contrasting directions the counties have taken since the days when Dooley and Co were All-Ireland contenders every year.
Indeed, Dooley played on three teams that beat Galway in the championship in 1984, '85 and '94 but the balance has since shifted dramatically.
"Many of the Offaly team have never played in Croke Park at any level, which is a huge difference from where used to be. It was a second home for us for many years but times have changed and now we have to try and change them back again," said Dooley.
Offaly's last Leinster championship outing in Croke Park was in the 2005 semi-final where they lost to Kilkenny by 31 points. Ironically, Offaly were managed by John McIntyre, who is now in charge of Galway.
Offaly head into the semi-final off the back of a lucky escape against Antrim where they were taken to extra-time, whereas Galway easily beat Wexford, having already won the Division 1 league title.
"In terms of where we've both come from, it's easy to see why Galway are such hot favourites. We're facing a massive challenge but we'll go into it in a positive frame of mind," said Dooley, who will delay naming his team until Saturday as he awaits fitness updates on James Rigney (groin), Derek Molloy (ankle) and David Franks (calf).
Offaly ran Galway close in the Walsh Cup and NHL games earlier in the year and are hoping that the sight of the maroon jersey will inspire them.
"We have to perform to the limit of what we can do and see where it takes us. We know we were lucky to survive against Antrim so it's clear how much we have to do to get anywhere close to Galway, but I'm confident there's room for improvement," said Dooley.
Galway's arrival in Leinster has reduced the prospects of Offaly, Dublin and Wexford, who were vying for No 2 position behind Kilkenny, but Dooley believes it's good for hurling.
"It certainly makes it harder when you have a big power like Galway arriving in Leinster but it benefits the championship. We've got to try and compete with what's there and forget about what it might be like without a team like Galway," he said.