Johnny Moloney with the new Glenisk jersey.
JOHNNY Moloney is certainly not going to make any big announcements about his inter-county future but whether he blows the final whistle at the end of this year or another year or two, he is now in his end game. The winter of a long county career that has been low on silverware and titles but full of commitment and enjoyment.
When the Tullamore man does bow out, it will be with a whimper. There won't be any Twitter announcement or seeking of fanfare. As the Offaly senior football captain said last week, he will simply be there one season, not there the next and he will slip quietly away.
Now 31 years of age, the father of a young child and living and working in Galway, Moloney doesn't owe anyone anything, though he does feel a sense of duty to help emerging young members of the Offaly side that won the All-Ireland U-20 Football Championship last year to bed into the senior football scene.
When he spoke before Tullamore's Senior Football Championship win last year, he was unequivocal in his determination to play another year and same Division 2 football for the first time in his career. Speaking last week at the launch of Glenisk's five year sponsorship deal with Offaly GAA, he was nowhere near as clear on his future.
“I am 31 now and I have a young family. I have to take it year on year. I am only focussed on this year. I am not retiring myself right now but I am not saying I will be playing either. Whoever is there next year, whether John (Maughan) or someone else, no one knows what happens from year to year. I might have a different life situation. As things are, I don't know. I am really focused on trying to max out this year. That is all I can do.
“ It's not going to go on forever for me either and I know that. When I do go out, I will just keep the head down and it won't be a big deal. You just won't see me anymore. There will be no official announcement. Once life gets in the way. . . There is no point in me lying to you, it is getting harder and harder. It is a big commitment but I still love it. As a young fellow all I wanted to do is play football with Offaly and my family will tell you that. I was absolutely obsessed. Even driving down from training, I love it. It is a big commitment, especially with a young family and every year there is a small bit more you are required to do. You are at something every night and then there is analysis you need to do for the next session or team you are playing. You mightn't think that is much but then you have your job and everything else on top of it.
“Some weeks, I say I don't know how you are going to keep going but you do get through it. It's definitely got tougher but I love it and I'm still enjoying it. I'm really looking forward to the Tailteann Cup now.”
His son is just six months old and has changed Moloney's life. The commute from Galway to Faithful Fields in Kilcormac is not simple and he acknowledged the support of his partner, her family and his family.
It was suggested that while the Offaly football team needs a certain changing of the guard, he was not one of the people on the chopping block and could provide the leadership that young emerging players need.
“You would feel that duty. I have great time for all those fellows. I know Cormac (Egan) and John (Furlong) well from Tullamore. There is other lads. Keith O'Neill is in there now, an exceptional player. You feel I would love to be able to help. They are excellent but there does need to be some bit of continuity to show them a small bit of the way. You would have that sense but some of those lads are that good, I don't think too many lads are needed to show them the way to be honest. They are excellent.
“You are saying, there needs to be a change of the guard but naturally these lads are so good, it won't be a case that they need to change the guard. It will just happen. They will come through naturally and you will have to play them. The way I see it, if you are good enough, you are good enough and you will be put in. A lot of them will play next year. You look at Galway, they won the U-20 and they are coming through now two years later. I think next year will be a big year for those fellows.”
Offaly were dismayed to lose to Wexford in the Leinster Senior Football Championship a few weeks ago and now have a chance of revenge in the Tailteann Cup next Sunday. Moloney has been happy with the mood in the camp since they returned training.
“We took a few weeks off but we are back at training since Tuesday. You wouldn't be sure how the mood would be but it was very good. It was a great session and there was a great buzz there. A few lads who were injured are back. I have no doubt, we will really go at the Tailteann Cup and try and turn the year around It was great and heartening to see the lads' attitude.”
He talked about the disappointing defeat to Wexford and the negative mood this resulted in through the county.
“That is natural, the Wexford defeat was very disappointing. It wasn't in the plan. That negative talk is natural but it does get in on players. People might say you can try and ignore it and you try but you can't. Players do want to make amends. They know that is not us. The year has not gone to plan at all in terms of what we want to achieve. That is through no one's fault or lack of hard work. That is just how it fell for us. We are keen to try and make something of the year and the Tailteann Cup is the best opportunity to do something in that sense.”
Offaly had a lot of injuries against Wexford and were missing too many forwards.
“We are trying to develop that bit of depth and we did struggle. We still felt we had a team there who could win but we didn't. The team had to be changed around an awful lot with some positional changes. Because injuries happened so close to the game we didn't really have time to work on new players in new positions or new players coming in. We weren't really flowing. We were a bit unsure of what we were doing in some places on the pitch. It all came out on the day but we were still there or there abouts and weren't too far away. It's a credit to Wexford. They were better than us on the day. We were definitely disappointed as we felt going in we had a great chance to win, we had a team good enough to win. You never want to lose and there's no point in giving excuses. It just didn't happen for us and that is disappointing. We really want to make up for that. Most of the injured lads are back training now and that has given the place a whole lift. We will be stronger personnel wise.”
He was glad to see almost every player return to training.
“Yes everyone is back in there. Joey O'Connor withdrew but that was one of those things. People withdraw and he might have withdrawn for the qualifiers. It wasn't a case that we are in the Tailteann, I am leaving. We practically have the same panel we had before the Leinster championships.”
There were murmurs of discontent among some players with team management, before and after the Wexford game. Had you heard any of this or were you aware of it?
“No not really but what I would say is everyone is not going to be happy in any setup. Sometimes when you're not winning these things get a bit out of hand. If we were winning, the same people might be unhappy with certain things but when you are winning, it doesn't carry any weight. Then when you don't get a few results, it can turn into something more than it really is. At the end of the day, everyone wants to play but not everyone can play.
“ Let's be honest, if there's a lad on the inter county team and he's happy to not be playing, he probably has no business being there. Now you don't want him dragging energy out of the group or anything like that but for sure you would want him disappointed and there is no point in saying otherwise. We have a really good group. Even at training on Tuesday, it was very noticeable, we have some great leaders all over the pitch and within the dressing room from different ages. It's very positive and everyone wants to be there and everyone is mad keen to play with Offaly. They do see, and I would be strong on this, that there is something very good that could happen in Offaly if things are managed properly over the next few years. There are some really really good young players coming through. It's only a matter of time if they do the work they should do, they will start to push Offaly on a bit more and people see that.”
Moloney and vice captain Ruari McNamee encourage and talk to players regularly during the season.
“Yes and Ruari McNamee as vice-captain would be doing that as well. I would encourage him to take it on as well because he is at that age where he has a really strong link with the younger group and the older group. He is in the mid 20s now. Niall Darby, who has been a brilliant captain for the last year years, is still on the panel. And Niall McNamee. I try and encourage more lads to take it on not just me as captain. It's everyone together trying to drive it on.
“We talk about different things as a group but nothing over and above what any other captain would be doing. We are trying to encourage all our panel to have ownership themselves and not be waiting on me or Ruari to say something. If you feel something needs to be said, say it. We are all adults and we are all going to respect one another up here. A lad 18 or 19 years of age might have just as valid a point as Niall McNamee who is 36. Say it and empower yourself. You are part of the group now. That is how I like it.”
He talked about Kerry legend, Tomas O'Se's influence as coach alongside manager John Maughan.
“They work together great. There is a good balance there between the two of them. Obviously John is the main man and calls the shots but Tomas is there as well and gives great insight for us. Tomas is a conduit between John and us and he does a bit of coaching as well. Tomas does a bit of analysis for us and there's now great balance there in the backroom team. We are very strong in the back room team. Tomas has added greatly to that. John is very passionate about it and he wants us to display that passion when we're playing. I have huge respect for Tomas, he is very humble – you wouldn't think he had five All Ireland medals and how many All-Stars and footballer of the year. He would be building us all up all the time and wouldn't be looking down on any of us or telling us what he used to do or Paul Galvin used to do or the Gooch. He is just there to try and make us better and is definitely there for the right reasons. He's a really good person.”
Relegation from Division 2 of the National Football League was a huge blow for Moloney.
“It was devastating to be honest. It was one of the worst losses I had in an Offaly jersey and there's been some bad days for me. It hasn't been the greatest time and it was devastating because we had put a lot of emphasis into it. I think if we had stayed up it would have made such a difference to these young lads to play in Division 2. The last thing you want to see for these young lads is to be caught in Division 3 for a few years as it could stunt their development a small bit. We really want to get these young lads into Divison 2 as quick as we can.
“We did give it everything but unfortunately it wasn't enough. The Cork game, we probably had it in our hands. We were opened up a little too easily in the first few minutes but once we got going, we did okay. Ultimately Cork were that bit better on the day and you get what you deserve. It was a big blow and there is no point in trying to say anything otherwise. I do feel that if things are done right between now and next year that Offaly have a great chance in Division 3 to really push on again. That means that everyone has to do what needs to be done.”
Moloney is absolutely determined to give the Tailteann Cup a real go and believes it will serve Offaly well when they focus on league promotion again next year.
“It gives us a great opportunity to develop momentum into next year. I know you are saying you wouldn't get excited about it but if we were in the qualifiers now with some of the teams for Sam Maguire, there is not a whole lot to get excited about there either. If we got a bit of a run, whether people get behind us or not but for us as Offaly senior footballers and we love playing for Offaly, if we got on a run with a bit of momentum, that is something we could bring into next January and that is what we are trying to do.
“There are still some very strong teams in the Cup. If we got a good draw to get us going, win that and build a bit of momentum. There are still some very strong teams in the Tailteann Cup. Cavan gave Donegal a great go. I feel it's a opportunity for us to develop some momentum for next year with what should be the goal to get back into Division 2.”
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