Saturday 21 April 2018

McNamee: Offaly are raring to go

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

OFFALY captain Niall McNamee admits the Faithful County start 2013 "from the bottom of the barrel" in terms of their football status, but that they are raring to go for the season.

McNamee was the Offaly talisman and star as they defeated Laois 1-11 to 1-8 in the O'Byrne Cup on Sunday.

The slender margin of three points could have been greater but, from an Offaly point of view, the importance of successfully negotiating the first hurdle of 2013 was significant.

For new manager Emmet McDonnell – who at 33 is the youngest team boss in senior inter-county football – and his players, the win over Laois was a nice confidence booster.

Now Offaly get ready to face Athlone IT at Gracefield tomorrow night with renewed vigour.

"We've been working hard for the past eight weeks," McNamee said. "The U-21s and seniors are all training together, which means a massive number in training. We've a very tight group at the moment. Lads are working hard together and there's great competition.

"Getting the win over Laois was great for us because it gives the supporters something to shout about.

"We're starting from the bottom of the barrel throughout the country in terms of where we stand, so we've got to haul ourselves back up and we can only take it one training session at a time."

The O'Byrne Cup format, guaranteeing three matches at least, is just the ticket for Offaly as they bid to pick themselves up.

Last year was the nadir. Relegation to Division 4, nine matches played, one win, and a ranking of 28th in our recent Irish Independent county-by-county assessment underlines the scale of the task for McDonnell and his players.

He accepts the challenge wholeheartedly, as does McNamee, who exudes enthusiasm for the restoration work to be done.

But McDonnell is looking no further than tomorrow's game. "These Offaly lads have been hurting over the past few years. They were determined to come out against Laois and put on a performance, and they certainly did that. Now our only aim is tomorrow night's match."

Irish Independent

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