Friday 23 March 2018

Whelahan demands increased work rate for 'daunting' Clare clash

Offaly manager Brian Whelahan
Offaly manager Brian Whelahan

Brian Lowry

Offaly hurlers head for Ennis this evening in an attempt to revive their season having come undone at the hands of Laois in the Leinster Championship.

Brian Whelahan, who is in his second year in charge of the Faithful County, admitted that along with the defeat on the scoreboard, both players and management took a mental beating in the aftermath of their defeat to Laois.

Offaly tasted championship defeat to their neighbours for the first time in over 40 years at the start of June and with morale and confidence dented, there was only one thing for it - to get back on the horse and to try and put things right.

"You just knuckle back down," Whelahan said. "Obviously confidence took a major hit against Laois. It questions everybody and everything. When things go wrong, that is generally what happens. From our point of view, we couldn't throw in the towel, we had to get back up again and get back into training.

"In one sense, we were lucky that we had a bit of break between now and the Laois game to allow that to go out of the system a bit. You always want to retain some of that hurt because it will make you go all the harder the next day. We will try to draw on that disappointment and the sickening feeling we felt coming out of Portlaoise that evening".

With Clare next up in Ennis, Offaly couldn't have been handed a tougher draw. Clare have been singled out by many as a team who can make waves through the qualifiers and Whelahan is well aware of their All-Ireland ambitions.

"From the time Limerick knocked Clare out of the Munster Championship, Clare were being touted as the team in the back door that everyone was hoping not to draw. Brendan Bugler coming back and a few injuries coming right was always going to add to their squad. It was going to be a tough assignment for whoever got them".

The former All-Ireland winner and multiple All-Star has singled out work rate as the key attribute that his side will need today, and they will need it in abundance. Clare are a ferocious animal when their backs are to the wall and with Davy Fitzgerald at the helm, they will be itching to get their own campaign back on the road.

"Going into their backyard is a daunting task. From our point of view, we can look at last year's championship and look at Wexford putting up a huge performance down there.

"They took them to extra-time and were probably the better team on the day. We can look on that situation and draw confidence from it. It can be done.

"It is about going out, playing your own game and working very, very hard. Clare have strived over the last few years to become the most hard-working team in the country and that is an area that we have to compete in very hard on Saturday evening.

"I can't over-emphasise how big a part work rate is going to play on Saturday. We have to match Clare on that front. It has been the backbone of Clare's performance over the last few years.

"We have good hurlers and if we can get that mental part of the package right, we can give a good performance".

Whelahan and his back-room team have made one enforced change to the side that lost to Laois with cruciate victim Cathal Parlon being replaced at wing-back by Seir Kieran man Eanna Murphy.

Shane Dooley will once again spearhead the attack with Dan Currams captaining the Offaly men from centre-forward.

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