New boss John Maughan shocked at inter-county ethos in Offaly
New Offaly manager John Maughan has admitted working with lower-division counties has been something of a culture shock, as he prepares to take on Westmeath tomorrow in the O’Byrne Cup with several players unwilling to commit to the county cause for the season ahead.
Sean Pender, James Lalor, Sean Doyle, Michael Brazil, Alan Mulhall, Brian Darby and Conor McNamee played championship football for the Faithful County in 2018 but have all either retired or opted out for this season, and the Mayo native admits that was unexpected.
“It’s totally different with teams in the upper division as regards the whole ethos of inter-county football,” said Maughan.
“There are a lot of guys I asked to play and for a combination of reasons they haven’t got the desire, commitment or the passion or time to commit to inter-county football at this level. That’s not the situation when you’re talking about the Mayos or Dublins or Kerrys, Tyrones, Donegals.
“I’ve a very good backroom team, top-class. They’re excellent lads, they know their football, what has to be done inside and out.
“But for those four or five or six or seven or eight other guys that I asked to get involved that couldn’t commit – that wouldn’t happen down in Mayo.”
Maughan conceded that there may be an imbalance when it comes to the effort required and the rewards on offer for counties who tend not to be involved in the business end of the All-Ireland series.
“I had the mistaken understanding that everyone would want to play for their county and have a desire and a passion for the glory of playing inter-county football but the reality is, in the modern GAA world, we’re developing a two or three-tier system where the big teams are moving on.
“I suppose if you’re an Offaly footballer, and those lads that I’ve got here are fantastic, they’re committed, they’re excellent and they want to learn and they’re interested and they love their football, it’s a choice of pleasures.
“That’s your hobby, you make a commitment to play inter-county football because you love it and want to play it.”
Others, such as Nigel Dunne who recently lost a Leinster club final with Shamrocks, are expected to rejoin the panel very soon, though possibly not in time for tomorrow’s local derby in Mullingar (2.0), but Maughan won’t be spending any time trying to change the minds of those who have turned down his invitation.
“You don’t want to be chasing a guy to play inter-county football. I respect guys that if they make a decision and they have the good manners to say, ‘No, this is not for me’ – I respect that. That’s fine.
“There’s one or two others that haven’t come back into the scene yet that were involved at provincial level up to recent weeks and hopefully we’ll see them after Christmas, and they’ll be ready for the National League”.