Monday 19 February 2018

'If we leave our defence open, Galway will exploit us' - Ryan

Offaly's Seán Ryan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Offaly's Seán Ryan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

After suffering a humiliating 14-point defeat to Westmeath 12 months' ago, another loss to the Lake men and being relegated back into the perilous Leinster round-robin series was non-negotiable for Offaly and their diminutive captain Sean Ryan.

It didn't look likely for long periods but the Faithful side persevered and the killer instincts of sharpshooting attacker Shane Dooley, who nipped in for two injury-time goals, helped claw them over the line in dramatic circumstances.

Ryan admits the "fear of losing" may have crippled Offaly for long periods but they came good in the end proving a point to themselves, and their detractors, by gaining revenge in a thrilling finale.

"Last year we were beaten in every sector and we really wanted to go out and undo the damage. If we had lost two years in a row it would've been a pretty bitter pill to swallow and the last place we want to be is back in that round-robin system," the Birr man said.

"I know you get extra games but you're playing on edge and if you suffer a loss or two you're staring Christy Ring Cup hurling in the face so we definitely wanted to pull ourselves away from that.

"We're trying to put ourselves on a progression back towards the top tier and I don't think the round-robin would be the place for us to do that."

Reigning League champions Galway await in the Leinster SHC semi-final on June 18 and after shipping a 26-point beating to the Tribesmen already this year, where they conceded six goals, Ryan knows the scale of the task facing them.

"Galway are a big, physically strong team. We've seen what damage they are capable of doing in the League. If we leave our defence open, and pores there for them to run through, they will exploit them," the 30-year-old woodwork teacher said.

"They've been doing it all year right the way to success in the League final so we'll have to do our homework on them and how to try and stop that forward line and it's going to be a huge challenge to stop them."

Offaly have improved steadily since that February mauling with Ryan feeling that his namesake Kevin Ryan is putting the building blocks in place for the future. "It was the first round of the League and we weren't really where we should have been fitness wise. We were late back training this year with the new manager coming in," the former dual star said.

"It was a bit of an eye-opener but from there on in we picked things up and put together a few better performances, but Galway were easily the better team that day and taught us a few lessons.

"It takes a lot of time for an outside manager to bed in and to get to know his players. Our team has shaped right from day one until now, and we've progressed with each game. Kevin is there for the long haul and he's definitely shaping a team for the future."

Irish Independent

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