Friday 23 February 2018

Losing run in Leinster casting shadow over Offaly - Mulhall

Alan Mulhall. Photo: Sportsfile
Alan Mulhall. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Alan Mulhall is in an unique position. Presiding over the coaching and games development of GAA in north Leinster, he can cast an eye over progress in the province despite still plying his trade with Offaly's footballers.

Growth of Gaelic games in Louth, Meath, Kildare, Westmeath and Longford is his responsibility, and the latter trio will stand in the way of the Faithful County's Division 3 promotion hopes next year.

The Walsh Island goalkeeper doesn't feel compromised, but he does admit there's some distance to go before Offaly and other Leinster counties can compete with Dublin again. Population and finance are the two biggest obstacles to equality.

"It's going to be very difficult to close the gap," Mulhall said. "Look at the size of the population in Dublin - for every footballer in Offaly, Longford or Westmeath there are two lads with the same ability in Dublin.

"And if one lad is committed and the other lad is not, he's able to step up. He'll be the one that's held on with the county team but with the smaller counties, we have to fight to hold onto lads.

"I don't know how you'd do it, they are getting as much help as anything from a coaching and development point of view. It's just that the backers that come into the bigger counties, they are successful.


"Success breeds success. People are looking to get involved, they want to get in there, so it's very difficult for the smaller counties to break that glass ceiling."

Having come up from Division 4 in 2015, the Faithful County look to continue their evolution under Pat Flanagan. And with the Dubs on the opposite side of the draw, a first Leinster Championship win since 2007 could work wonders for the side's confidence, but they need to box smarter.

"It would be absolutely massive," he said. "We got huge confidence out of winning the (Division 4) final at Croke Park. Then we grew in confidence when we won that qualifier.

"I think we just need that one win to give us a good boost but we have to be cleverer this year. We left it behind us against Longford. I don't want to dwell on the last time we won a Leinster Championship match, but we need to get that win.

"When you see the draw, everybody is saying Kildare are going straight through from that side - all Division 3 teams."

Elsewhere, Edenderry defensive duo Sean Pender and David Hanlon have given Flanagan a timely boost with their return after some time in the inter-county wilderness.

Pender has not been seen in the Offaly colours since being dropped for disciplinary reasons under Emmet McDonnell in 2013.

Irish Independent

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