Thursday 22 March 2018

Flanagan: 'The biggest spenders are the top dogs'

Longford’s Paddy Collum battles for possession with Offaly’s Alan Mulhall in last year’s Leinster Championship. The counties will meet for the fifth time in 18 months on Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Longford’s Paddy Collum battles for possession with Offaly’s Alan Mulhall in last year’s Leinster Championship. The counties will meet for the fifth time in 18 months on Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

"It would be an interesting experiment," Pat Flanagan smiles, when asked what he could do with the Offaly football team if given a blank cheque.

The argument will continue to rage. Just what difference unlimited backing would make to a county would help define exactly what sort of disadvantage the 'have nots' are trying to surmount when they take on the 'haves'.

The Faithful County start their championship campaign on Sunday when Longford come to Tullamore after a decent spring.

Offaly looked to consolidate in the league this year after promotion from Division 4 last spring, though they still went into the final round of matches with an outside chance of a second successive promotion.

And with championship now looming, Flanagan is bullish about his side's chances both this summer and further down the line.

However, he accepts there is a gap between the top sides and the rest that is only underpinned by the relative financial backing available to county set-ups.

Flanagan insists that the sides spending the most money are the ones emerging with the silverware.

"There is an onus on Croke Park as well to have a good serious look at closing the gap between Dublin and the rest," he said.

"Every county board is under pressure to keep things ticking over in the last few years and I'd love to be in a position to get a blank cheque and see how I could improve Offaly.

"We are given a budget at the start of the year and let's be honest here - the ones spending the most money are the ones at the top of table, there is no point in saying otherwise. I would pump money into gym equipment, how we train the boys, how they perform, dietary requirements.

"Get all those things right and have all that financial backing to pay for it and you're in a better position - players will improve a certain percentage.

"Now, I'm not going to get a blank cheque, but it would be an interesting project."

He's keen to point out he's not crying foul against the Dubs who have ten of the last 11 Leinster titles. Their success makes them an attractive proposition for sponsors he says and he wants to see the rest of the province make more progress quickly.

"The simple truth is I would love the challenge every day of the week to play against Dublin," he said.

"I admire them greatly - they are definitely the benchmark and they play the best style of football.

"It is every player's dream - and mine too - to test ourselves against them because they are the best.

"With that in mind my aim is to get Offaly to the highest level as far as the league is concerned so that we can play the best teams on a more regular basis and get the players up to that level.

"So that's down to us. Why blame Dublin? They put themselves in position to get extra resources because they play brilliantly and win so much.

"Sponsors don't come knocking on the door, and throw money around for no reason.

"It's up to the other counties to find reason to attract their own backers and to stop berating Dublin. We should all get to that standard."

Offaly take on their midland rivals for the fifth time in just 18 months across league and championship on Sunday and the results have been mixed. Offaly won the Division 4 final clash between the sides handsomely last year only to be turned over in the championship a few years later.

And Flanagan admits he'd have liked to have drawn someone else.

"It was a bit disappointing to get them in the draw - it was not what we wanted and I wouldn't say the Longford boys wanted it either.

"There has usually only been a couple of points between us - apart from the league final when we got a run on them.

"But last year we set our stall out to win league final because we hadn't won much in the years beforehand and maybe we suffered in the championship a small bit because of the emphasis on the league.

"But this year we got the opportunity to get in some good players and we are looking forward to it.

"I am more convinced than ever that we can get to a different level but we need a few wins. I would be slightly unhappy that we are not at the position I thought we would be. But I think (if we get) a few wins, we can make some moves."

Irish Independent

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