Offaly football better than it has shown - Flanagan
When Pat Flanagan pitched up in his native Offaly, he found a side low on self-confidence.
Flanagan had stints with several clubs and had cut his teeth on the county scene with Westmeath and Sligo but the Clara man always kept an eye on Offaly and felt there was more in them than they had shown.
However, even the most ardent Offaly supporter has had their faith tested recently.
Last year was a particularly poor showing. The briefest of summers followed relegation to the basement division and when he was appointed late last year, Flanagan found a side floundering.
It's still very early days for Flanagan and Offaly. O'Byrne Cup performances don't count for much but when you're starting from the bottom, any positive is a worthy one.
A comprehensive dismissal of midlands rivals Laois is always welcome in the county and that was followed by a gutsy display against Dublin in Parnell Park on Wednesday night.
They went down, but they went down swinging having made the early running to lead by three points at half-time.
"When we came in we found things were very flat," Flanagan admitted. "We were concerned by the lack of self-belief. They didn't have a good year last year so we came in and we subjected them to a lot of football.
"They have responded to that and things have been going well so far.
"I've been saying it for a while but Offaly football is better than what it has shown in the last while.
"Maybe some day when it doesn't go well people will remind me of that. We're just trying to put a bit of structure on it, go about things the right way and get that self-belief back.
"And the lads have responded well too, they are giving it everything."
Defeat to Dublin means there's no O'Byrne Cup semi-final to play for. Sunday's visit of Maynooth University to Tullamore is their last competitive game before the league starts and after showing signs of rejuvenation in their opening two games, Flanagan is hoping for a strong turnout from the home support.
"Against Dublin, we started well but we probably suffered a little bit as the game went on," he said. "It wasn't their full team but it was great to see the way they play and move unlike some other teams. And that's the level you aim for, that's what you are trying to get to.
"We have Maynooth next and that's important because it's at home and after the last two games people might come out and have a look.
"That is important to us because we have four games at home in the league so hopefully people will come out."
By that stage, Flanagan will have welcomed back his Rhode contingent which could be eight-strong, including star forward Niall McNamee.
Rhode have put in several long seasons but Flanagan has no fears about their readiness for action, despite their run to the Leinster club final.
"There's a lot being written about player welfare but I often think it's more mental than physical," said Flanagan, who has a clean bill of health with the exception of Peter Cunningham, who could return for the latter stages of the league.
"For a few weeks after the Leinster final I left them alone because I didn't even want them thinking about football. Those lads are all huge athletes and determined footballers and they want to be part of something and to create something new."
That new beginning starts with their Division 4 campaign away to London before they welcome Waterford to Tullamore.
Flanagan has made no secret that the county must navigate their way back up through the league as they look to rebuild.
"The whole objective is to get out of Division 4.
"If Offaly football is to get to where it aspires to be then that has to happen as soon as possible so we can create that confidence that we need to push on."