Sunday 25 February 2018

Offaly growing into qualifier force to be reckoned with -- Cribbin

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The results may disprove the theory, but Offaly manager Tom Cribbin is convinced that the county's footballers have become more attuned to qualifier football in recent years.

Offaly's record of re-entry into the football championship after Leinster failure has always left a lot to be desired. By comparison to Leitrim and Waterford, who have yet to record a back-door success in the 10 years of its existence, perhaps a better gloss can be put on it.

But examine the counties that Offaly's five victories have come against -- London and Clare in 2003, Kildare in 2004, and Clare and Waterford in 2010 -- and it's quite evident that the qualifiers have been an uncomfortable journey for them. Only the victory over Kildare has been of any real significance in a disappointing decade.

Defeats to Louth, Limerick, Roscommon, Wexford (twice), Carlow, Laois and Down (twice) have left the impression that Offaly consistently turn their noses up at qualifier games.

But Cribbin, for whom defeat against Monaghan tomorrow will probably signal the end of his two and a half years with the county, has detected signs that his team have become more competitive in qualifiers during his tenure.

In 2009, they scored more times than Wexford but lost by 2-11 to 0-16 while last year, after those victories against Clare and Waterford, they pushed future All-Ireland finalists Down to two points, 1-12 to 1-10.

"People will throw Offaly's results in qualifiers over the last 10 years at you, but I'm only concerned with last year and I feel we competed very well after losing to Meath in Leinster," he reflected.

"To me, that's a sign that the county can take to these games."

Cribbin has had to deal with the fallout of a heavy defeat to Wexford in the first round of the Leinster championship, when the team collapsed in the last 10 minutes.

Inadvertently, they were drawn into the row that developed over the preparation of the hurlers and their problems in getting access to O'Connor Park for training on the weekend before last when Michael Duignan questioned the commitment of the footballers and suggested some of them were prone to "going on the beer".

Duignan apologised on the airwaves two days after making the claim, naming a number of players who, he said, could not fall under the category he had described. But he still made it clear that people in Offaly saw a general problem with the commitment of certain sections of the football squad.

So does that now create a wounded animal in the guise of this Offaly football team?

"I would say these lads were hurting before Michael made his comments. I felt he was wrong to say what he said, I'm glad he took the remarks back as he did," he said.

"But we've worked very hard since the Wexford game. Mentally, it was just impossible for us to do anything the week after it.

"We had put so much into it and we genuinely thought we had a chance of progressing on our side of the draw. We were shattered after it."

"I said this before and I'll say it again now, we were not as bad as the scoreline suggested in Tullamore that night.

"We caved in the last 12 minutes but only after missing a penalty and creating three other goal chances."

Offaly and Monaghan have never met in the championship and when the sides last met in the league, Monaghan won by a point in 2007.

Irish Independent

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