Johnny Moloney can’t remember a buzz around the GAA in Offaly like it. Last year’s swashbuckling All-Ireland U-20 win has the county giddy about what’s down the road.
The minor hurlers surfed that wave to a Leinster title in front of a bumper crowd in Portlaoise during the week. In the same period there’s been a commitment from Shane Lowry to help get the county up and running, while the footballers secured the services of Tomás Ó Sé.
The feel-good factor is back. And for someone who has been working through some tough days over the last 11 seasons, it’s very welcoming.
“I have seen some bad times, poor times,” says Tullamore clubman Moloney. “I always felt that we were in some way underachieving, even with the player pool that we had. There were times going to matches when, to be honest, I felt that we didn’t have a chance. You just wanted teams to max out, that is all you want to do as a player.”
“Obviously, as a young player, I dreamt of winning All-Irelands with Offaly, but as you get older, you realise that might not be possible, so all you want then is to see improvement. I think it is fair to say the last few years got more of a sense of that.
“And the buzz of the U-20s last year, the journey it brought the county on, not just in the football, was unbelievable. And even still, people across the country recognise those U-20 players and it is great they see the potential they do have.
"I suppose it is up to us to manage the buzz around those fellas and make sure that Offaly doesn’t fall into the trap they have done before where it doesn’t come to a whole pile and we maximise the potential of these players.”
So small steps and patience are what’s required. Relegation from Division 2 was a blow and along with it came Tailteann Cup football.
First on their dance card tomorrow is Wexford, who upset the odds when the sides met in the Leinster Championship. Offaly had significant injury problems that week but Moloney insists that three-point defeat was kind to his side.
“It’s not really a revenge mission, but it just did focus the minds, because the result actually flattered us down in Wexford. They won by three points but it was a bigger margin than that. It is an opportunity not for revenge, but just to redeem ourselves in putting out a better performance because we were very poor the first day and it wasn’t of the standard we expect of ourselves.
“We are under no illusions, it is going to be very tough. All credit to Wexford the last day, they are much better than people gave them credit for. Going into the game, everyone had us down as red-hot favourites, but we were under no illusions that wasn’t going to be the case.
“We knew there would be nothing in the game but when you looked at the game, Wexford were by far the better team so there is a gap for us to close.”
The addition of Ó Sé caught the eye and Moloney is full of praise for the impact he has made.
“Tomás has been excellent, to be fair. I know results haven’t gone our way. We haven’t achieved what we wanted, but it has nothing to do with our backroom team. Tomás has added to it hugely and I would like to think going forward, he has a role to play with us.
"He has added so much and has a lot to give, especially for the younger cohort of players coming through. He has a wealth of experience and is an incredible person in that he has achieved so much – five All-Stars, five All-Ireland medals, Football of the Year, but he is sitting, chatting with us, and really knows where we are at,
“He doesn’t talk about what he did or what Kerry did, all he talks about is us.
“We have two other coaches, Pádraig McDonald and Mark Fee, and they are excellent. They do the drills and there would be input from Tomás, who does an awful lot of analysis, similar stuff to what he does in The Sunday Game.
"He pulls up a video and he understands the football, he can see the patterns. So he does an awful lot of analysis and a lot of one-to-one work.
"For example, if there is something in my game that I think I need to work on, Tomás would meet me early before training and go through the videos on things that I do well and things I can do better.”
And for Moloney, playing in the Tailteann Cup is a chance Offaly have to try and seize with both hands.
“The Tailteann Cup gives us an opportunity to develop something with a view to next season and beyond.
“If we go well on it, it will be a chance to build a bit of momentum so lads are hungry to come in next year and start bridging that gap.”