McDonnell lauds Offaly’s spirit as attention turns to National League

Offaly manager Emmett McDonnell was whole hearted in his praise for his team after last Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup semi-final against Kildare.

Offaly manager Emmett McDonnell was whole hearted in his praise for his team after last Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup semi-final against Kildare.

While Offaly ultimately lost the game by three points, they were more than a match for their much vaunted opponents and had Niall McNamee managed to convert a late penalty, the outcome could have been very different.

Speaking after the game, McDonnell paid tribute to the spirit in the team.

“We got off to a good start. There’s great spirit in these Offaly guys. They’ve been written off by a lot of people in the last few years and I think they wanted to show themselves out there today what they could do and I think they showed that.”

While disappointed with the defeat, the Offaly manager was happy to be able to turn the focus to the league without having to play another game in between.

“In one way it would have been great to win today. You would have had a game against Dublin next week which would have been huge preparation but in another way it’s more important that we get ready for the first round of the National League the next week. In a way we can focus lads again.”

Offaly have a blend of youth and experience and the manager is very happy with how they are developing.

“We’ve tried to introduce a number of lads like Peter Cunningham, Paul McPadden. Paul was brought down for the penalty. Peter put in a few good balls into Anton. Eoin Carroll is only 18 years of age and he was fantastic out there today. We’re trying to introduce the younger players with some of the old players and to get the balance right but we still have a little bit of work to go.”

When asked what he was most pleased about from the game, Emmett McDonnell said it was the way the players kept battling.

“The lads fought to the end. There’s a lot written about the level of fitness over the last couple of years of Kildare and Donegal and Laois and these guys who have done a lot of strength and conditioning work but we played 73 or 74 minutes there today and I think we were still going strong at the end so I was very impressed with that.

“It’s important that everybody keeps their feet on the ground. Kildare probably weren’t at full strength there today and they wouldn’t be looking at the O’Byrne Cup as a major priority. They’re looking at winning a Leinster Championship while we’re just taking one game at a time. We’re trying to make small gains all the time.

“We’re reading papers all Christmas where Offaly are ranked at 30 and 31 and these guys are ranked at five or six so it was fantastic to measure ourselves out there today.”

On the penalty, Emmett McDonnell said he would have no qualms about having his captain take the next one again.

“Niall’s our marquee player. We trust Niall. We’ve huge faith in him. He’s the captain of the team and he’s the leader of the team. He’s been the guy in training driving the whole show. Niall has won us the three games previously scoring six or eight points so we’re right behind him. We’re a team and we stick together. It took two of the strong Kildare defenders to keep him quiet in the first half and that shows the respect Kildare have for him.”

While Offaly have fared very well in the O’Byrne Cup, the squad should be strengthened again ahead of the league with players to come back in.

“Richie Dalton played a very good game here against Laois for us. Johnny Moloney is a key player for us to come back in. Ken Casey, Niall Dary, Ruairi Allen, Nigel Dunne and Daithi Brady are some of the lads who have niggly injuries and we’re focussing on getting them right at the moment.”