THE Darby name will always be synonymous with Offaly football after the heroics of Seamus in 1982 and his inspired goal that won the All Ireland for his county and ended Kerry’s five in a row dream.
Also on that Offaly team was his brother Stephen and this Sunday his son Brian will lead out the Faithful County against Kildare in O’Moore Park.
Now entering his fifth Leinster Championship campaign, the Rhode man says is a great honour to captain the side but his focus is more on his job on the day.
“At the start of the year when Gerry Cooney was there he asked me to be captain for one of the games which of course was a huge honour. At that particular time we were focused on getting promotion and doing our very best in the league. But being captain is almost an aside to the job you have yourself as a footballer but I’m enjoying it at the minute.”
Offaly were disappointing in the league and a year after they were a kick of a ball from gaining promotion, they suffered the ignominy of relegation to the bottom tier of league football. However Brian Darby believes that the players have redoubled their efforts since then and have worked very hard in preparation for the Kildare game.
“When the league finished up we really had two months to get the heads down and get good work done between then and the championship. We had a lot of injuries throughout the league and as it went on it started to clear up one by one and at that stage we started to get bodies back on the field and a few lads came back. Lads started to enjoy the training that bit more then, especially with getting the extra bodies there. We’ve really put our heads down for the last two months. Lads have worked extremely hard and we’d be very much hopeful of giving a very good account of ourselves and showing the fruits of the labour over the last two months.”
At the helm for those two months in the wake of the departure of Gerry Cooney has been Darby’s Rhode club-mate Tom Coffey and the Offaly captain says the panel are happy to have him in charge.
“Tom has his own style. He’s pure football and a very passionate Offaly man. His track record of under age in Offaly over the years speaks for itself. He’s a very good backroom team with him who are good passionate Offaly men as well. They’re very eager to see Offaly doing well. Tom’s worked very hard on football putting in a lot of work behind the scenes as well and we’re very happy to have him there.”
While Offaly have been working hard since the end of the league, their opponents this Sunday have been working year round for the past number of years and Darby believes Kildare’s focus will be on the bigger picture.
“Kildare have been there or thereabouts. They’ve been very consistent the last few years and probably very unlucky as well. It’s testament to the work they’ve done. They’ve really four years of heavy conditioning done and they’ll be really looking at the bigger picture now over the next few months on the way to Croke Park.”
Offaly have a real blend of youth and experience in their side, a blend which the Offaly captain believes will work to their advantage.
“It is a nice mix. There’s a great relationship there between lads at the minute. It was very difficult at the start of the year when we were down seven or eight U-21s and it was hard to get that bond going. But when the lads came back they were very enthusiastic on the back of a few good wins in Leinster which Offaly badly needed in that age group. They have complemented everyone. Older lads have been happy to see them come back and they have really put the shoulder to the wheel.”
While he made his debut at wing-forward, his subsequent starts have all come in the full-back line where he could well start again this Sunday. A relatively young unit, Darby has been impressed with how the players have worked together.
“The lads are very enthusiastic. You couldn’t ask for more from them. The likes of Mickey (Brazil), Johny (Moloney), James (Gallagher) give a huge effort as does everyone on the panel. There’s that bit of freshness about it when you get that enthusiasm together and lads really start wanting to work and make an impression. They also want to work for new friends they get around them and they’ve certainly done that in buckets this year.”
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