Owens: Club success can be shot in arm for Offaly inter-county ambitions
THE success of Offaly clubs in the AIB Leinster Club SHC over the past two seasons should result in a positive spin-off for the county team, according to Kilcormac-Killoughey manager Danny Owens.
He steered the club to their first Offaly and Leinster title last year and is now hoping the remarkable progress will continue when they take on Thurles Sarsfields in the All-Ireland semi-final in Portlaoise on Saturday.
Coolderry reached the All-Ireland final last year and, while they lost to Loughgiel Shamrocks, it was the best run by any Offaly club since the glory days enjoyed by Birr.
Kilcormac-Killoughey replaced Coolderry as Offaly champions last autumn and followed an equally successful path through Leinster.
It's a double success which has raised the stature of Offaly club hurling, an improvement which Owens hopes will be reflected on the county scene.
"Club success doesn't automatically transfer to inter-county, not immediately anyway, but you would hope that it would have an impact eventually," said Owens.
"Two Offaly clubs have won Leinster in successive seasons so it reflects well on our county championship. You don't win titles if you're not good enough."
Offaly's stock would be further enhanced if Kilcormac-Killoughey won the All-Ireland title but it's a challenge which many believe is well beyond them. They are 5/1 outsiders to beat Thurles Sarsfields (1/7) and 12/1 to win the All-Ireland title.
However, Owens is actually quite pleased with the underdog's rating, believing that it suits the Offaly psyche.
"Offaly hurling people have always thrived on being underdogs – we've never let it bother us. It was the same when we (Kilcormac-Killoughey) went into the Leinster championship but we didn't take any notice of that either.
"We always said it was about our own game and making it as good as it could be. Maybe people expected us to be satisfied with winning the Offaly title but once we had done that, we wanted more. It's the same now that we won Leinster. We want to take this as far as possible," he said.
Kilcormac-Killoughey played Westmeath, Offaly and Carlow in challenge games in their attempt to get up to the level required to match Sarsfields, who were very impressive in their march to a first Munster title, beating Kilmallock (Limerick), Sarsfields (Cork) and De La Salle (Waterford).
At face value, that was a tougher route than Kilcormac-Killoughey's challenge in Leinster, where they beat Mount Leinster Rangers (Carlow), Rathdowney-Errill (Laois) and Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford).
It's not something Owens is dwelling on, preferring instead to focus on the positives from their own game.
Those include an extremely tight defence which conceded no goals in the Leinster championship. They were impressively solid in all three games but will have to step up another notch to cope with a Thurles attack which includes Lar Corbett and Pa Bourke.
"We know how good Thurles are," said Owens, "but we'll approach this like we did in Leinster and concentrate on our game."