Dooley out to freshen up Offaly with Forde coach role
A desire to freshen up the scene and to give himself more time to work on other facets of squad preparation lay behind Joe Dooley's decision to invite former Galway forward Francis Forde aboard the Offaly hurling management team for next season.
Turloughmore man Forde, a teacher in Banagher, was a regular on the Galway team in the mid-90s and won a National League medal in 1996. He will assist Dooley in the coaching duties as Offaly seek to build on the progress made this year.
Pat McLoughney and Brendan Kelly will continue as selectors.
"Francis is highly regarded as a coach and I have no doubt he will be a major asset to us. It's always good to have new ideas and his arrival will enable me to work on some other things. There's an awful lot of work to be done with county teams nowadays," said Dooley, who has been re-appointed manager for a fourth season.
There were some doubts initially over whether he would continue but, having taken time out to consider the situation, he decided to remain on.
"My term was up this year but, in fairness, the county board made it clear they wanted me to stay on.
"What I then had to decide was if that was in the best interests of Offaly hurling. Having weighed things up, I decided to give it another go and am really looking forward to getting back working with the lads in the new year," he said.
Offaly enjoyed their best season for quite some time this year, retaining Division 1 status before winning two, drawing one and losing two of five championship games. The defeats came against Galway and Tipperary while they beat Antrim and Limerick and drew with Galway.
"Our performances against Galway were very encouraging. They have more playing resources than us but we matched them in both games, which showed the spirit that's in the squad," Dooley said. "We didn't get going against Tipperary but weren't that far behind in the end and when you see what Tipp did afterwards it showed just how rapidly they were improving around then.
"The main thing this year was that we nailed down a lot of positions and would feel that they're fairly solid for next year. The challenge now is to secure some others.
"In the end, all we can do is get the most out of what we have and I felt we were on the right track towards achieving that that year. Now, we've got to press on, try to improve and see where it takes us."
In common with all other managers, Dooley fears that one of the big challenges facing counties will be to hold on to players at a time when emigration is at its highest level for many years.
"It's an issue everywhere," he said, "but especially in a small county like Offaly where we definitely can't afford to lose players."