'We have some great players – but nobody seems to know it'
OFFALY manager Emmet McDonnell is the man to lead the Faithful County out of the footballing doldrums.
That's the view of team skipper Niall McNamee as Offaly, without a Leinster championship win since 2007, bid to restore pride to the county.
McDonnell took on the job before Christmas. Since then he has improved fitness levels and spirit among the squad and guided the team to promotion into Division 3.
McNamee says: "Emmet is very enthusiastic about the whole set-up and he's putting great effort into it, and so are the players.
"They're all behind what he wants to do. It's great to get promotion, especially for the young lads.
"The average age is around 22-23, very young. There are a lot of U-21s coming through off this year's team and off last year's team as well.
"There are a lot of very good footballers in Offaly and I think they just needed a bit of direction. Getting promotion was massive. We need to be playing in the higher divisions."
Kildare in Croke Park on June 1 represents a huge challenge for Offaly, but win lose or draw, McNamee believes this is only the start of the journey.
"Getting promotion was great, but it's going to take three or four years before you see huge improvements out of it," he explains.
"It's a young squad and players are buying into that. They don't expect success straight away. It's impossible. It's not going to happen if we're being realistic about it.
"It's a three or four-year plan. Even at the moment the football we're playing is nowhere near the level we need to get to in order to be competitive with the best teams, but it is slowly getting better and it will change. It's just going to take a bit of time."
The Offaly captain has no doubt the raw talent is within the county and that is the basis of his optimism for the future.
"We've been playing in Division 4 and nobody really gets to see these players, but they're as good as you'll see anywhere. They just haven't been given the platform for people to see them.
"I remember when Tipperary beat Offaly last year in the last game of the league down in Tipperary, Brian Connor was at midfield and he scored four points from play.
"I've no doubt it was the best exhibition of football you'd have seen that weekend, but nobody knew about it because he was down in Division 3 and nobody was there to look at it.
"We have very good footballers. They just need to be seen to be appreciated and in order for that to happen, we need to start winning, but that will happen."