John Maughan with Jordan Hayes after Offaly's defeat
SUNDAY'S Tailteann Cup semi-final defeat by Westmeath was almost certainly John Maughan's last game as the Offaly senior football manager but the Mayo man was not making any announcements when he faced inevitable questions about his future afterwards.
Maughan kept his cards close to his chest as he remarked:
“I honestly don't know. I won't be answering that question this evening out of respect. It's the county chairman that appointed me, it's him that I'll be chatting to over the next couple of days.”
Pushed for an indication of his intentions, he smiled: “I don't know. Very often these decisions are decided for you.”
While Maughan was non committal, it will be a big surprise if he is back for a fifth year at the helm. He has served four years as manager, helping steady a rocking Offaly ship in that period and winning promotion to Division 2 of the National Football League last year – they were relegated this year while a Leinster Senior Football Championship defeat by Wexford this year was followed by Sunday's whopping 3-22 to 2-16 beating by Westmeath.
Maughan has regularly spoken of the toll of travel from his Castlebar home to Offaly's training base in Faithful Fields in Kilcormac. It is likely that he will opt to stand down himself but even if he seeks another year, the possibility of Offaly GAA seeking new management will be a very big one.
Sunday's performance was very disappointing and Maughan admitted as much:
“We were comprehensively beaten by a much superior Westmeath team. They’re very strong, physically strong and there’s no doubt we were struggling in most lines. We got overrun from the get-go. It was just a question from half-time onwards of playing for pride, playing for the jersey and that kind of stuff. It's a different kind of conversation you have when you go in seven or eight points down at the break. It was a difficult afternoon for sure.”
He agreed that Offaly's subs did well with Dylan Hyland scoring three points and Cathal Flynn getting a great goal.
“Yeah, it was a question of respect for the scoreline and doing ourselves a bit of justice. It was very encouraging to see Cathal Flynn and Dylan Hyland come on and do well and I thought Keith O’Neill and Jack Bryant both did well too. They’re very, very young. The thing is at times they were just pushed off the ball by the physical presence of the Westmeath side. Their level of development is far superior to Offaly’s at this juncture. There’s certainly a gap to be bridged there.”
Maughan spoke about Offaly's list of injuries and absentees this year.
“Yeah, we lost seven or eight what you’d call potential starters. Now, of course, they were replaced by the Keith O’Neills and Jack Bryants. But when you take Peter Cunningham, Eoin Carroll, Cian Farrell, Eoin Rigney and more, it’s been difficult. In a dual county like Offaly, you need everyone because the playing pool is small. That’s just reality. You’d love to have more talent coming through and more competition for places but the reality is that takes a bit of time and we’re just not there yet. But nonetheless, for the likes of Cathal Donoghue who dislocated his knee, the Tailteann Cup would have been great because he’s not getting a lot of club football, he’s with a junior club (Kilcormac-Killoughey). Just a shame for the likes of him. But those guys will come through in time.”
Despite Offaly's defeat, he remains a fan of the Tailteann Cup.
“You've got to experience ugly days in order to appreciate the good days, whenever they come. If they come. I'm very much in favour of the Tailteann Cup for tier two counties. There was a cracking game of football, I only saw snippets of it there, between Sligo and Cavan. Super game of football that will do enormous benefit to both those counties, particularly Sligo. Despite the fact that we got a heavy defeat there today, we did win three games in the Tailteann Cup and we got a bit of a bounce out of that and feel good factor. I thought it was good. The likes of those young players coming back into Croke Park again, it is the theatre of dreams for young players.
“The experience was enjoyable, the lead-up to it and we prepared exceptionally well and as well as we possibly could in the circumstances. But no, I'm very much in favour of the Tailteann Cup. I hope it's retained. I think there's a place for it and I think you'll have competitive games. And I think we'll have a good final.”
He also agreed that the Tailteann Cup was helpful for Offaly's young players.
“That's the reality of it. You see the accelerated improvement in players playing in good conditions. The last month has been fantastic for those lads. They got four inter-county games in this competition, albeit New York, Wicklow, Wexford and today. They'll only benefit from that. It will be next February before they get back on the horse again with an inter-county game. So it's fantastic for those young lads that got game-time. I really genuinely believe it's good.”
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