OFFALY'S NHL hopes have been hit by a spate of serious injuries and while manager Joe Dooley was satisfied by last Sunday's victory over UCD he is concerned about what lies ahead when his charges open their league campaign away to Cork on February 13.
By Alan Walsh
"The biggest concern for us is injuries. Paul Cleary, David Kenny, Derek Molloy, Joe Brady, Ger Healion are out. While Brendan Murphy and David Franks still to come back. So we are missing key men right down the middle of the team. We're managing well without them and lads are getting a chance to make a name for them-selves. It will test us though. When you come up against top class opposition that is when you will find out," explained Joe.
When pressed further on the absentees, he outlined, "Derek Molloy won't be back until the end of the NHL. He is on ten week rehab programme. The same with Joe Brady. He is has having serious problems with a hip injury since the club championship and he is looking very dodgy now for any part of the NHL. Ger Healion has a bad calf injury and it could be a month before he'll be back. Paul Cleary has a bad heal injury that isn't clearing and he is looking very doubtful for the rest of the NHL as well. David Kenny had an operation just before Christmas and hopefully he'll be able to play some part in the NHL. He is on a rehab programme and he hopes to be back sooner than the other, so it is touch and go.
"Brendan Murphy is working long hours and the arrangement we have with him is that he keeps him-self fit and hopefully he'll be able to give us a commitment later on, towards the end of the NHL or maybe after it.David Franks will be back in the next couple of weeks. He is doing his own training programme."
Offaly overcame Clarenbridge in a challenge game last Thursday evening but were well beaten by Limerick in a challenge game on Saturday in St Brendan's Park, Birr and this Saturday they face Carlow in the Walsh Shield Final.
"We've a final against Carlow and it will be a competitive game. You can play challenge games all you like but it is still not the same as a tournament game no matter what. I was happy enough with the win (over UCD), nearly double scores and we should have had a few more scores. We were only three points up at half time when we should have been six or seven. We missed a few frees and a couple of good chances of a goal. In fairness to the lads they dug in and worked hard to grind out the win and that is the important thing.
"We've put in a few hard weeks where we've been on the go four or five times a week. It is just that time of the year where lads are a bit flat looking in them-selves.."
Joe is happy enough with the progress of the new faces that have been introduced to the set-up but he is wary of Cork.
"We need everybody. We've introduced a few young fella's and you can't throw them in together. We gave a couple of them a run today and they are doing very well. Brian Mulrooney is doing very well at corner back and I thought Tom Carroll did well, in fairness to him. Paul Bermingham and also Kevin Connolly, had some touches, and they are trying to make a name for them-selves.
"There are no handy games in the NHL. The big games are between Offaly, Wexford, Waterford, Galway and Dublin. Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary were always going to be difficult. We are probably mentally stronger than what we were this time last year. It is just the injuries that is going to have a big bearing on things and I hope we can get some of those lads back.