Saturday 23 March 2019

No light at the end of the tunnel for Offaly after latest defeat

Former Offaly captain Brian Carroll. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Former Offaly captain Brian Carroll. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's only a year and two days since Michael Duignan posted an emotional tweet in the wake of Offaly's 13-point win over Dublin in Croke Park in the opening round of the league.

"I know it's only January, I know it's only the league, I know Dublin hadn't a full team, I know, I know, I know.....but I still have tears in my eyes. Kevin Martin is a man and his team played like men," Duignan tweeted.

Perhaps it was an understandable reaction. Offaly hurling has been on the receiving end so often in recent years that any chink of light at all was bound to be seized on. They were hoping against hope that that result was the act of defiance they had been waiting for to kick-start the county. It wasn't.

They'd win only one more game in the league, beating neighbours Laois. But that was it for the season.

A year that had started with such hope ended in despair. They didn't win a game in the Leinster championship as they slipped down to the Joe McDonagh Cup.

It was another blow for the county, who had seen setback after setback in recent times with defeats to Laois and Westmeath in the championship marking their slide.

In 2014, they appointed a hurling review group who looked to put in place the structures the county needed to compete. Three years later, that group disbanded insisting they were not being listened to.

And there's been no let-up this year either. Offaly scored just seven points in their Division 1B league opener against Waterford at the weekend, with just three of them coming from play.

They were without a host of regulars, including Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin, but their 27-point hammering at the hands of the Déise was another hammer blow.

Speaking on Midlands radio afterwards, former captain Brian Carroll summed up the sense of despair best.

"When you look at this defeat it's sobering. And maybe a lot of people outside the county will say 'what has happened Offaly?' but this has been coming for years," Carroll said.

"Anyone who has been willing to listen will understand this has been coming for years.

"And you know what, maybe after looking at that maybe relegation won't be the worst thing in the world because where do we go for these players?

"They are giving absolutely everything for Offaly but it's hugely demoralising for them."

They are looking at a tough spring with Dublin coming to Tullamore this weekend before a game against Laois in round three.

"I know you can say we're not concentrating on these games, it's all about the Laois game, it's all about the Laois game.

"But come on they are only human and there is only so much of this they can take.

"They'll be expected to go back to Faithful Fields tomorrow night and put in a gym or recovery session but how do you pick up their enthusiasm for this? They'd want to be robots not to feel this."

With the number of genuine All-Ireland contenders heading for double figures, the sharp end of hurling is in rude health but it can't afford to discard any counties either and Offaly hurling is shipping water just now.

Irish Independent

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