Cathal Donoghue is among the new faces on the Offaly senior football panel.
WITH the National Football League scheduled to restart on Sunday, Offaly have drafted in a number of talented younger players as they bid to secure their status in Division 3.
Manager John Maughan has called up Jack Bryant (Shamrocks), Cathal Donoghue (Kilcormac/Killoughey), Bill Carroll (Cappincur), Carl Stewart (Clara), Rory Egan (Edenderry) and Eoin Dunne (Edenderry) after they impressed him during the club Senior Football Championship while there are recalls for two players from intermediate clubs, Joey O'Connor (St Rynagh's) and Raheen's James Lawlor.
The Mayo man is delighted to have these faces on board as they gear up for Sunday's trip to Thurles to face Tipperary and he is looking forward to the resumption of activity after the long Covid-19 enforced break.
Offaly currently lie in fifth place with five points from their five games played to date. This gives them a very outside chance of promotion but with Cork out of their reach on top of the table with 10 points, this is very much in the outside category. Instead, Offaly's big aim is to stay ahead of one of Tipperary and Leitrim and avoid the drop to Division 4 – Louth are bottom with no points and can't catch Offaly.
The table shows Cork on 10 points, Down and Longford 7, Derry and Offaly 5, Tipperary and Leitrim 3 and Louth 0.
At the moment, Offaly and Maughan are just hoping that the games will go ahead. Speaking on Monday, Maughan revealed that they have had meetings with their team doctor, Shane Carroll and County Board officials to make sure all Covid protocols are implemented and strengthened.
“We are monitoring it on a daily basis and making sure there have been no close contacts with a positive case. I am conscious of what happened with the Irish soccer team, how easy this is to spread and how your whole season could unravel. A player had a close contact ten days ago but thankfully his test came back negative. There were cases involving Edenderry and Clara players and that slowed their return.”
Offaly have been back training over two weeks now with players returning as their clubs bowed out of the club championship and it is now all hands on deck following the county finals.
While Clara's Bobby Mitchell and Cappincur's P.J. Daly are now gone from the panel, Maughan is delighted with the influx of fresh faces. “Fresh faces energise everyone. It gives a great lift and it is great to see young players with interest and who have that attitude.”
There are a couple of minor knocks and injuries. Cian Johnson is still dealoing with an annkle and groin injury while Joey O'Connor hasn't been able to train since coming back.
He did comments on a number of games for both Offaly and Mayo streaming during recent weeks and remarked that he never saw as much football as he did in the last couple of months. “I thoroughly enjoyed the Offaly championship, it was very good really,” he smiled.
“Lads had a great appetite for it. It was the same in Mayo. I know down here, the intercounty lads played exceptionally well. They looked rested and hungry. In previous years, they looked stretched and fatiqued. You could see the intercounty player bubbling to the surface in every game. That is very encouraging. A stranger should be able to walk into a game and pick out the intercounty players ahead of others.”
He also confirmed that Niall McNamee has returned to the panel after an excellent season for Rhode. “It is great to have his leadership, guile and experience. We are delighted to have him. The guidance and assistance he gives lads is great. I know from my own time in Mayo, you always remember the guy who talked to you, minded you and looked after you when you joined the county panel. Niall is that kind of player.”
He agreed that the club championships provided great games and individual displays and asked for his opinion on a proper segregation of club and county seasons, he said: “I endorse that completely. It is only a question of time before there is segregated seasons for club and county. The unfortunate thing is that when a county has a late run and is in an All-Ireland final and then is followed by club, a lot of intercounty players might not have the same appetite and desire.
“Mayo played their championship on consecutive weekends. It was every second week here because ye have hurling as well. The players had a great bounce and appetite. It was just a shame there were not crowds there to witnesss it.”
In Division 3, it is all very tightly poised and while the odds favour Offaly staying up, they won't want to be relying on anyone else doing them a favour and can secure their status by getting a result in Thurles.
The other fixtures for this weekend are: Cork v Louth, Derry v Longford and Down v Leitrim while the closing round on October 25 will see: Leitrim v Tipperary, Longford v Cork, Louth v Down and Offaly v Derry.
Maughan stated that they are only allowed to bring the bare panel of 26 to Thurles and he concluded by talking about the uncertainty surrounding everything at the moment.
“We just don't know what will happen, it is a moving situation. It is changing minute by minute. We are looking over our shoulder wondering will it go ahead. We all have the appetite and the mood of the nation will be improved considerably if there is intercounty activity and live games in our homes. It will whet the appetite of people instead of constantly looking over our shoulders in a very challenging time.”