GERRY Cooney has had a true baptism of fire in his first stint as a Senior inter-county manager.
Appointed in the wake of the shambolic initial process to find a replacement for Tom Cribbin, the former selector under Kevin Kilmurray has been in the eye of the storm ever since.
At one point during the campaign there was talk that he might walk away but that didn’t happen and in the wake of Offaly’s relegation last Sunday, the manager was adamant that he was not about to walk away now.
“I made a commitment at the start of the year. There has been a lot of problems during the year. We set the bar maybe a little bit too high. We made our own decisions about players. We went with a younger crew. The U-21 Championship probably didn’t help although we wanted to support them and we were delighted to see them getting on as well as they did but it meant we couldn’t prepare for games as well as we might have. Having said that we had them back for the last two games but it takes time to gel a team but if you’re asking me if I have any announcement to make, the answer is no.”
One of the biggest problems he has had to face is a number of high profile defections from the panel and there were more in the build up to the last and crucial game of the campaign. However while broaching the subject, the manager preferred to concentrate on the players still in the squad.
“I could say plenty but probably I would say too much if I started. It is disappointing. For their own reason some fellas have absented themselves from the panel. I can’t criticise the lads that were there. They’re working hard. They’re training hard. They give their best. It’s just hard to get a flow. It’s hard to believe but we had eight changes from the team that played Cavan three weeks ago which was arguably our best performance. Some were enforced and some were because the U-21s were available so it’s been a bit like that. We’ve found it very hard to get a consistent team. That sounds like an excuse and I don’t want to make excuses for it. We have to take responsibility ourselves.”
When it came to taking responsibility for the defeat to Tipperary, the manager wasn’t making any excuses.
“ I don’t want to make any excuses. We weren’t good enough. We had a great opportunity today. It wasn’t in our own hands but as Antrim beat Cavan that makes it even more disappointing. I could try and find reasons why but it stops and starts with ourselves so I’ve to start with myself first and today wasn’t good enough.
“Against a strong breeze I think we had 11 wides in the first half. We had most of the play and were playing well I thought. A young team and a lot of lads playing together for the first time. We came in at half-time very upbeat without losing the run of ourselves and just didn’t do it in the second-half. That’s the most disappointing part of it.”
Even entering the closing stages Offaly were still in the hunt but Gerry Cooney agreed that his side struggled to break down the Tipperary defence.
“There was only three or four points. They funneled men back and got men behind the ball and we didn’t really penetrate them. I’m not sure we looked like creating a goal at any stage in the second-half whereas in the first-half we did. We just have to be a little bit smarter and a little bit cuter and a little bit more aware of how to play against a massed defence like that.”
Offaly now have a two month break before they face Kildare on June 17 in Portlaoise. While Gerry Cooney acknowledges that it would have helped to finish on a positive note, he is hoping the players respond positiviely.
“If you did manage to survive it gives you something to play with and gets fellas back with a bit of a step. It’s going to be difficult, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got two month to prepare for Kildare. It’s a big ask on a Sunday in Portlaoise. We will have the players back before they go back to their clubs but it’s a lot of work to do in the next two months. We can do one of two things. We can feel it’s beyond us or we can roll up our sleeves and come back stronger for it. I hope it will be the latter.”
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