Wednesday 18 July 2018

Offaly 'project' up and running but there's no quick fix, warns boss Wallace

Making playing football for Faithful attractive again top of Kerryman's list

Offaly boss Stephen Wallace: 'We are three months into a three-year plan and the ambition is to try and get these guys up into Division 2'. Photo: Sportsfile
Offaly boss Stephen Wallace: 'We are three months into a three-year plan and the ambition is to try and get these guys up into Division 2'. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's not long into the interview before Stephen Wallace mentions the word 'project' in reference to his role with the Offaly footballers.

There is no quick fix here, he warns. No glory days or big championship scalps just around the corner. They are three months into a three-year term and the goals are modest because Offaly's form over the last few years dictates that they have to be.

The Faithful footballers have drifted between Division 3 and 4 for the last few seasons, while last summer saw them claim their first win in the Leinster championship in nine seasons.

In that light, Wallace reckons that establishing themselves in Division 2 has to be their next step.

"I'm calling it a project," he said.

"We are three months into a three-year plan and the ambition is to try and get these guys up into Division 2, but you won't do that overnight.

"They stayed up through the kick of a ball in the last league game last year so they were within a breath of going down to Division 4.

"So I'm not saying we are going to go straight up but that would be the ambition and the aim.

"Then you are playing a better brand of football and you are going to test yourself and improve.

"At the end of my term if I can leave Offaly football in a better place than when I took over that will be enough for me.

"But we have to set targets, Division 2 is realistic, where we can go in the Leinster championship remains to be seen."

The are some big obstacles to overcome. Years drifting across the football landscape has taken some of the sheen off playing for Offaly.

Wallace has heard a few 'thanks but no thanks' since he started inviting players in.

Making playing for Offaly an attractive proposition again is one of their main objectives.

"It's difficult, players haven't committed for one reason or another but I'm not the sort of guy who mulls over the what-ifs and if we had this guy or that guy.

"They didn't commit, they are not here and we'll drive on with the 30 young guys we do have."

"(Playing for Offaly) probably isn't (as appealing) as what it should be and that's the reality of where you are at.

"You have had an Offaly team that have yo-yoed between Division 3 and 4 over the last decade and they haven't won championship games, so of course it is not overly appealing.

"But on the bright side you had a good U-21 team that got to a Leinster final last year.

"OK, they got a bit of a trimming from the Dubs but there is no shame in that, Dublin are that bit ahead of everyone at the minute.

"But these guys have been winning matches at underage level so they are a new breed and a new mentality.

"I was quoted a few weeks ago in the media saying we need to make Offaly football sexy again and that's the kind of terminology that I'm trying to put out there.

"We need to make it sexy, we need to make it appealing for young guys because we need everyone that is capable of playing inter-county football with Offaly to make themselves available.

"And the only way to do that is to make the project appealing to them."

Offaly have hit the ground running. A big win over Wexford was followed by a battling draw against a shadow Dublin side.

Tomorrow they travel to Mullingar to take on Westmeath in the Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup semi-final.

It's been a bright start to Wallace's senior inter-county managerial career, something he has always wanted to try since training with Kerry panels under the likes of Páidí Ó Sé and Jack O'Connor.

The hours on the road are long but he knew that would be the case when he took the gig on. There are more logistics to be sorted than there were with his club Ardfert or the Kerry juniors. Still, he is where he wants to be.

"I suppose it's something I always had maybe an aptitude for.

"I would always have listened to coaches and if there was a guy giving a talk I'd go to it to pick up nuggets of information.

"It was kind of a no-brainer when the career came to an end that I was going to fall into management."

Irish Independent

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