Happy Offaly captain sets sight on return to Liam McCarthy Cup

"I think losing last year in the Christy Ring Cup was a wake up call to us"

Happy Offaly captain sets sight on return to Liam McCarthy Cup

Ben Conneely with his daughter Liadan after lifting the Christy Ring Cup.

OFFALY senior hurling captain Ben Conneely quickly set his sight on promotion to the Liam McCarthy Cup after Derry were easily beaten in the Christy Ring Cup final at Croke Park.

The St Rynagh's man was firstly delighted that they got out of the third tier.

“We are delighted. We knew coming in today it was going to be tough. Derry have had a lot of changes and we by no means wrote them off. We put last year's victory over them behind us because they had ten different players in different positions from the last day. We had to put our head to it and work hard. It was hard out there. I know the score line doesn't say that but it was tough.”

He was asked about the difference between this year and last year when Offaly lost to Down in the Christy Ring Cup semi-final and didn't get promotion in the league.

“The big thing is we are working for each other, we are working harder. For a lot of years, we weren't willing to work hard enough. We finally bought into realising that if we look out for each other and work for each other, we are going to get victories. It is just hard work, nothing else.”

He acknowledged that it was very important to move back into the Joe McDonagh Cup.

“It is important to get out of it and move forward. It is very difficult to come out of that league. In the Christy Ring, people are expecting that you are playing well in the league and will come out of it but it is not that simple against teams who are good teams. Every day we are playing, they are looking to take a scalp out of us. We had to put our head down this year and that is where it went wrong. We took it on board this year what happened to us and brought it with us today.”

Did staying in the Christy Ring Cup for an extra year help in a perverse sort of way in that it was a wake up call and gave players the opportunity to improve?

“It did help. Funnily enough to myself, I think losing last year in the Christy Ring Cup was a wake up call to us. We didn't have an all too great league. I know we won games but when we needed to we didn't win. We lost to Kerry and we didn't finish victory against Antrim and we brought that with us into the championship. I know there was a long break but it was good that we lost it because it gave us fire in the belly this year, something to strive towards. From the first league game, it took off and we kept it going from there.”

What is the target now?

“Everyone's target at our level is to get up there (to the Liam McCarthy Cup). That is our ultimate goal but we can only play what is in front of us. Our goal next year in the league is to compete and stay in it and our goal for the Joe McDonagh is to compete and win it. They are our goals and we won't look further than that. The league will tell more. They are big teams but we saw with Antrim this year that when you work hard you can get victories. That is all Antrim did. They didn't do anything special. They just worked harder and they beat Clare but at the end of the day it is just the league.

“It is great to do well in the league, to stay in it but your goal at the end of the day is to win the championship. Antrim didn't do that, they ended up going poorly in the championship. You don't want that to happen. For us, it is to get good performances in the league, to hopefully compete and then give it socks for the championship.”

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