MANAGER Joe Dooley believes Offaly can bounce back from suffering relegation and mount a serious assault on the Leinster Championship which begins on May 29 with a daunting away trip to NHL finalists Dublin.
Gutted Joe told reporters after last Sunday’s loss to Kilkenny at Nowlan Park and more crucially Wexford’s draw with Tipperary, “It means we are back in Division 2 for next year and obviously that’s not where we want to be. You need to be in Division 1 getting good matches like we got today.”
Joe, an All-Ireland medal winner in 1985, ‘94 & ‘98, added, “We hurled in Division 2 a couple of years ago and I hurled in Division 2 when I was playing with Offaly. We won All-Ireland’s and National Leagues out of Division 2 so there is no reason why these lads can’t do the same and I think they will. The lads will bounce back from this.
“Everybody is disappointed but the league doesn’t resume for another nine months. It is championship time now and we can’t be feeling sorry for ourselves. We have to get over it and get ready for the championship in six weeks time.”
He wished Wexford well following their dramatic relegation escape.
“You would have expected Tipperary to beat Wexford but in fairness to Wexford, they went up to Thurles and got a draw and that’s enough to keep them in Division 1. I’m sure they are delighted with themselves and we wish them the best of luck. We are very disappointed. We were concentrating on our own game and trying to get a win in our own game.
“I thought we hurled very well and we can take a lot of positives from today. I thought it was probably our best performance in the league but we came up a bit short in the end.”
Reflecting on the campaign, he agreed that the loss to Waterford was a critical blow and felt the NHL could be revamped again.
“I said in the dressing room that the Waterford game was the one we should have won. We were short too many players earlier on in the league. We were short eight or nine players. I think we improved as the year went on and as the ground got harder.
“There probably is (a need to revamp the NHL) and I think everybody agrees. That will probably be looked at in time.”
On the game itself, Joe commented, “1-19 was a great score and we got some great scores. I thought all our forwards fought very hard and our backline was excellent. We had a lot of good performances.
“James Dempsey made a couple of great saves and Stephen Egan was excellent in front of him. Michael Verney had a great game and Brian Mulrooney hurled very well when he came on.
Shane (Dooley) and Brian Carroll got a few good scores and Cathal Parlon had an excellent game. There were lots of positives and we will have to get to the training field and get ready for the championship.”