A winning start was key to Offaly’s hopes of gaining promotion from Divsion 3 this season.
After a slow start against Cavan on Sunday, Tom Cribbin’s side found their stride and dominated the majority of the game.
The Offaly manager agreed that it was crucial to start the campaign with a win and he added that the strength in depth of the squad played a major part in the victory.
“The first two home matches were crucial to us and I’d say the lads felt the pressure of that today. Three guys during the week were on antibiotics as well and then there were three or four lads injured. But that’s the beauty of the panel this year. We have a bit of strength in depth and when one lad is out through injury or sickness, they’ll have to work hard to get back in.
“I think the pitch was a little bit heavier than it looked from the sideline because the standard didn’t look as good as we’d like. We know after last week against Sligo that we were moving very well and we were moving at a different pace so I’m putting it down to the conditions.”
While he was happy with the fact that his side finished the game with 1-12, Tom Cribbin raised concerns over the number of opportunities spurned.
“I’d be more worried about all the misses but it’s great to be coming out comfortable winners. We were short five or six lads today and there is great competition this year for places so hopefully we can keep delivering like that.”
Offaly fielded a comparatively young team and the star of the show was Bernard Allen who was making his senior debut. Tom Cribbin praised the Tubber man’s performance adding that the younger players on the panel were pushing the senior players.
“He’s a tremendous young prospect and there are four or five very, very good young lads there. Maybe even six that are on the Under 21 team and it’s very difficult for their preparations at the moment. They’ve been very supportive and you can see the standard of those young lads and its putting our senior players under great pressure and that’s what we need. That’s what brings you to the next level. They proved in the Down match that they could play at this level. They’ve natural pace and that’s what we need. The way the game is gone you need and awful lot of natural pace and they’re very confident young lads. These lads want to win. ”
While the majority of the team are relatively young, there were some more experienced heads on the field on Sunday. Chief amongst them was Ciaran McManus who finished the game with four points.
“He’s just unbelievable and the leadership he shows at training. In fairness our three older guys, Scott, Ciaran and Karol, they are just a treat to work with and are brilliant with all the young players. They push themselves so hard and they are probably in the best condition I’ve seen them over the three years.”
On the day Cavan scored just five points from play and over the 70 minutes Offaly were well on top at the back. Tom Cribbin complimented the players on their display adding again that there was also a healthy competition for places.
“The full-back line is the same full-back line that finished up playing the last three championship matches last year. Brian Darby is just a little bit tired in himself but he is so determined to come out and play with us but he genuinely needs a bit of a break for a couple of weeks. Scott is playing unbelievably well and Sean Pender is getting better and better. Joe Quinn then making a comeback and it’s brilliant to see him back. Karol seems to get better. He got a very bad gash on his leg in the middle of the pitch and he still made it the whole way back into the defence to make a block. Stephen is getting better too. We have good competition everywhere this year.”
Last year, Cavan scored 0-22 against Offaly in a one sided affair under lights in Breffni Park. While it was a much different result on Sunday, Tom Cribbin pointed to the changes in the Cavan side and sounded a note of caution ahead of the rest of the campaign.
“It’s a whole new Cavan team and there is no point getting carried away with it either. None of their six defenders played last year and they’d only three or four who played last year started today. They’d a great win with their Under 21s yesterday so we shouldn’t get carried away with ourselves at this stage.”