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25 Jan 2022

Forget about Dublin type dominance, one title will do for Moloney

Forget about Dublin type dominance, one title will do for Moloney

Johnny Moloney trying to burst past Rhode's Gareth McNamee last year.

THE very suggestion drew a wry smile, almost an incredulous reaction from joint Tullamore captain, Johnny Moloney.

With the array of young talent they have coming on board and the size of the town, could and should Tullamore be about to embark on a Dublin type dominance of Offaly football?

The inspirational Tullamore leader smiled for a moment as he reflected on the fact that he has won just one Senior Football Championship medal in his career and that was back in 2013 when he was just twenty three years of age.

Now approaching the veteran stages of his career, the long serving stalwart answered emphatically: “ I definitely wouldn't agree with that. We are far off that. We are just lucky to be in this final. We are miles off dominating anything. At the end of the day we beat Bracknagh, drew with Shamrocks and Edenderry and we beat Ferbane who were understrength. We're not getting ahead of ourselves. We have a long way to go before we consider ourselves any sort of a force. We try to take it game by game. Rhode are what you look at in terms of domination in the last 20 years. It is going to be a huge task for us on Sunday to try and turn them over but we are just giving ourselves every chance.

We are not getting ahead of ourselves and looking too far into the future. One game at a time.”

Back in 2013 as Tullamore beat Sunday's Senior Football Championship opponents, Rhode in the final, Moloney probably expected to have more medals by now. “I was 23 then. It's a lifetime away. I was relatively young back then and only Paul McConway is older than me on the team. There is a few on the panel. We have only a handful still playing whereas Rhode have a good few. It's too long for a club like us but that's the way things fell for us. We have a good chance of winning the Cup back on Sunday. Put our best foot forward and get a rub of the green.”

Last year Tullamore were beaten by Rhode in the final but there is a very different atmosphere around this year's build up.

“It is a lot different to last year. It feels more normal to what it had been in other years. Hopefully there'll be a good crowd. Last year there was only 200 and the same at the semi-finals. There was a nice crowd this year at the semi-finals this year. It feels more normal.”

Tullamore also look in a lot better health than last year when they scraped into the final after losing to Cappincur in the first round and only beating Ferbane on penalties in the semi-final. And while they were only pipped at the post in the final, they were very much second best on the day and a Tullamore win would have been akin to robbery.

“I tend to agree with you there. We lost by a couple of points, maybe a hammering, and never really looked like winning. Rhode were a lot better than us on the day. In terms of the championship, it is definitely a lot different for us. Last year we were scrapping by every round and barely got through the group stage. We barely got over Ferbane on penalties and then the whole thing came up short against Rhode whereas this year we had two draws in the group stage and we were building nicely and we were in control of those games for a long time. Maybe we lost a bit of concentration on the way but we learned a lot of lessons and then we played Ferbane in the semi-final and we were a bit lucky that they were missing so many players. They were missing three of their best players but we still had a job to do and we did it and we are happy to be in the final again I suppose. We have made a good few improvements and maybe taken a few steps forward this year so we would be very happy with and we fell that we are in a good place going into this final and will give it a very good shot.”

The Offaly player agreed that Tullamore are playing better this year.

“Yeah I do think so. I suppose Niall Stack and the management team have done great work with us from the get go. There was a lot of teething problems at the start last year in terms of so many new players and getting them accustomed to senior football but now they have all two to three years experience under the belt and it makes all the difference. They get better every game particularly the young lads. We have so many of them. But we do have some experienced players, don't get me wrong. We have so many young fellas that the improvement is just connected with them. We are a far better team, so much stronger than we were 12 months ago. Even in terms of our panel and in terms of our junior teams. We're improving all the time but it doesn't really guarantee anything. It's our aim to be better all the time and to see where that brings us.”

John Furlong, the injured Cormac Egan and Harry Plunkett have joined the team this year from minor ranks and Moloney was asked about their influence.

“Them three boys, for their age they are probably elite. They are probably three of the best minors in the country. Them three lads, their heads are screwed on. They might only be 18 years of age and Harry Plunkett is still in school. But he is a very mature footballer and they don't have big heads and work harder than anyone else. They have great attitudes. They do not get ahead of themselves. They are clued in and they are three super fellas. There's other lads too who mightn't have the bit of physicality at senior level. Once they grow into themselves. They are only 18 but they are well developed physically which allows them to play senior so comfortably. We have a few more lads that that the club can bring through.”

Do you feel a duty to mind those young players?

“You would feel that duty. But no one minds anyone up here. You have to get stuck in, roll the sleeves in and roll the sleeves up. We just want everyone to be better. With those three boys there is no minding in them. Not just them but the boys a few years older, those on the u20 panel. They are all very mature guys but you are trying to encourage them all the time so that ultimately we get the best out of ourselves as a team. In years gone by we lost our way in terms of lads mindsets. I really feel with this group that they are different and that they're really invested in football. It's very important to them and Tullamore is very important to them. I think that's a big difference with this group.”

With those young players, it is a very exciting time for Tullamore, one full of bright promise.

“There is huge talent and it is exciting and just how these fellas enjoy their football. I have no doubt the majority of them are going to stick at it. There is no guarantees either. I met Richie Connor and a few other lads at the Paddy Fenning walk and they reminded me of 1977 when Tullamore won the senior, U-21 and minor and Tullamore had a few brilliant players at U21 but they never pushed on after that and we never won another championship until 2000. But if the lads keep developing the way they can it's not going to guarantee any trophies but in my opinion the lads can be as good as they want for another few years.”

Moloney was asked about the benefit of having four players who won All-Ireland U-20 football medals this year – John Furlong, Oisin Keenan-Martin, Cormac Egan and Ciaran Egan.

“It's a huge help and a huge help for everyone in Offaly. We have four lads. What really strikes a chord with me is how ambitious those lads are. Even Cormac Egan is injured but if you talk to him he's ambitious and John, Harry and Ciaran are as well. More than anything, ambition has been lacking in the past, it just got eroded, but them boys have it back. It's great to be around, it's infectious.”

He doesn't go along with the theory that Rhode have looked vulnerable this year.

“You can say they look vulnerable but it's fair to say they've lost one game. No disrespect to Durrow that day but Rhode were severely weakened. That was the first run out and funny things happened and since then and when you peel it back. Ferbane ran them close. They won their quarter final comfortable enough and did what Rhode do in the semi-finals. They have more than a few game winners and they're a serious side and we'll be up against it no doubt. Especially considering how far off we were this time last year.”

Tullamore have often used Moloney at full forward but he is happier in his more natural centre half back position this year.

“I am happy with that. It is probably my more natural position. We have probably a few more forwards, Harry and Cormac is injured and a huge blow. We didn't have Diarmuid (Egan) last year. He is excellent and has a lot going for him. The team is a bit different to last year but we still have continuity. Centre back is where I've played most of my football and I'm comfortable enough there.”

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