Tuesday 21 November 2017

There's enough Offaly negativity without manager adding to it

Offaly manager Kevin Ryan saw his team suffer a heavy defeat to Galway Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Offaly manager Kevin Ryan saw his team suffer a heavy defeat to Galway Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Outsiders looking in must shake their head in disbelief at where it has all gone wrong for Offaly hurling since the turn of the decade, but for anyone with their head screwed on properly, the fall from grace could be seen a mile away within the county.

On Sunday six goals and a 26-point beating were shipped to a Galway side minus All-Stars Joe Canning and Daithí Burke in the latest addition to the 'dark days of Offaly hurling' - the Faithful's heaviest Galway defeat in 66 years.

But perhaps the most startling aspect of this harrowing defeat was Kevin Ryan's post-match comments, and as a staunch Offaly supporter I simply cannot accept them with any degree of sympathy.

"You'd probably like to see more fellas willing to play. I often said it to the lads themselves that if Waterford looked for 50 to come in in the morning, they'd have 50," said Ryan.

"They'd be queuing up to come in, they are starting to smell success. We struggle to get 30 for a game, that's the reality of it. They say it's having time and different other commitments and that, but they really don't have the same desire as others because they don't see you winning something."

Yes, things are bleak in the county, with underage conveyor belts grinding to a halt in recent years. Yes, success does not look attainable at this present moment. But that's the job Ryan has signed himself up for. And what message is he sending out to his players at this early stage of the year?

There's enough negativity and apathy towards Offaly's senior hurlers around the county without more being created from the inside by a manager publicly telling his players they are going nowhere. In February. That doesn't sit well.

The year might as well be written off at this stage in that case. As for the personnel 'issues', have these other players been contacted? Has there been dialogue with clubs with the view to sending representatives into the county squad?

With Ryan's coaching ticket only belatedly adding Offaly-based selectors, this type of scenario was likely to arise, as some players, a la Davy Fitzgerald's coaxing of Jack Guiney in Wexford, need special attention.

The former Antrim, Carlow and Tyrone manager continued: "It's the problem everywhere with counties - particularly a county like Offaly who 20 years ago were winning All-Irelands - and the expectations: 'why aren't we doing this, and why aren't we doing that?'

"The reality is totally different with Offaly the last four or five years. We are trying to focus on down the road. Any of our aims are two or three years away and that's not good enough for some of the Offaly public, but that's where it is.

"You can't just turn something like that overnight. It's Catch 22. You're looking for a different bunch to come in, try and win something and get everyone on board."

I want to hear solutions, not difficulties and thankfully at underage there has been a proactive approach - headed by Liam Hogan and new director of hurling Brian Carroll - but while the wheel is turning, it going to take some time for it to reach its destination.

The sad fact is that rock bottom hasn't been hit at senior level yet and the "gulf in class" Ryan described will get wider before it gets smaller. With Joe Bergin unlikely to feature for the rest of the League, Offaly cannot afford to be in Division 2A, but that's sadly the direction they're heading.

When you have your head in the sand you get what you deserve.

Irish Independent

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