Offaly's U21 football manager, James Stewart, has been speaking in the wake of his side's 2-14 to 0-08 defeat to Dublin in the EirGrid U21 Leinster Final on Wednesday night, March 29.
Stewart said he was "incredibly proud" of his bunch of players, going on to say that they would "learn a lot" from this defeat.
"That's a really good Dublin team. They are strong and tactically astute, and we were up against it," he told Midlands 103 after the game.
He went on to say that although Dublin talisman Con O'Callaghan grabbed all the headlines in the build-up to the game, they were well aware of the likes of eventual man of the match, Aaron Byrne, and others, pointing out that Dublin are an "incredibly strong unit," aside from any individual talent.
Offaly kicked quite a few wides in the first half in particular, and Stewart was disappointed with this aspect of the performance. "We had some bad shot selection and you really can't be missing chances like those, especially in a final," Stewart commented.
Dublin on the other hand were imperious in front of goal and were also able to call on the bench throughout the game, without losing any quality. "They have serious strength in depth - probably more than we have at the minute to be honest," Stewart admitted. Dublin kicked another big score on their way to their fourth Leinster U21 title in a row, and the last one ever as the grade reverts to U20 from next season.
James Stewart also recognised the influence of the crowd at O'Moore Park, saying that, "the fans always turn out, and although they haven't had a lot to shout about recently, when Offaly supporters get the sniff of something, they are hungry for it and the crowd gave everything they could in this game."
Stewart insisted that he was proud of the way his team battled and said there is a lot of good young talent around the county now. "Success is within our grasp and we just need to nurture it to ensure we have a senior team we can be proud of again very soon," he remarked.
Stewart suggested that the players will learn from the defeat and that "they gave everything for the green, white and gold, and that's all you can ask for."
He also said that plenty of these players will see senior action in the near future, and indeed, James Lalor, who lined out for Wednesday's final, was the man of the match in the senior team's crucial win over Sligo in Division 3 of the Allianz Football League last weekend.
He said that this weekend, the seniors have a "do or die" game against old rivals Portlaoise in O'Connor Park, and he hopes that the Offaly supporters will once again turn out to show their support, saying that, "we really need that 16th man from the stands."
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