SIDELINE MOUTHPIECE: Offaly may as well not turn up for Galway game

SIDELINE MOUTHPIECE: Offaly may as well not turn up for Galway game

Offaly are being routinely overlooked ahead of their game with Galway on Sunday in the Leinster Hurling Semi-Final. In the ultimate show of disrespect, Wexford are apparently already looking forward to a final showdown with Galway. That was the bones of the reaction to their win over Kilkenny at the weekend as players and selectors lined up to talk to the media afterwards.

The last time I checked, Galway weren't in a Leinster final, but everybody is so sure they will be, so what's the point even factoring in Offaly?

This is a shot of the Boylesports GAA betting markets, where they are already taking bets on a Wexford/Galway Leinster final. You'll also notice the fact that Galway are 1/100 to beat us on Sunday afternoon. 

Now, I know as much as the next guy that Offaly stand little chance of beating the current favourites for the All-Ireland, but we at least deserve to be considered. We'll have 15 men against their 15 at the weekend and the disregard with which we are being treated is in bad taste; it's certainly not in a sporting nature anyway. 

All of this breeds a train of thought that Offaly may as well not turn up. We're a sitting duck. We're toast. We may as well lay out the red carpet for Galway on Sunday and wish them on their merry way to Croke Park. Isn't that a pitiful thought?

As disrespectful as this dismissive attitude towards us is, it has to be given some weight in our evaluation of where we're at. The mooted restructuring of the hurling championship was greeted last week with some trepidation as Offaly were listed in the proposed Leinster group, while the likes of Laois, who have had our measure recently were in the qualifier group. 

The Leinster group would leave us in with Kilkenny, Galway, Wexford and Dublin, where we'd expect to take some beatings and probably battle it out with Dublin to survive. Not exactly a lofty proposition, but sad reality nonetheless. We must face criticism for even being suggested for that Leinster group over the likes of Laois, and that is where we find ourselves.

While Wexford, Westmeath and Laois laid the groundwork for the generation coming through, we sat on our hands and hoped for the best. That's the way it is perceived among fans, at least, and when you look at the current state of things, it's hard to blame them. 

We've been stagnating and perhaps souring in recent years having wallowed with little success for nearly 20 years. We welcomed a supernova generation of hurlers in the 1980s, and more by luck than judgement, a similar crop emerged in the 1990s. That gave us a bit of an aura for a long time, as if we had something special, considering we only had 12 hurling clubs. It was a miracle more than a masterpiece. 

What followed, years of mediocrity, is our norm and unless we address it in a big way, we will finally slip behind the likes of Laois and Westmeath. We have been tarrying trying to stay ahead of these counties in recent seasons and we can't hold out forever. It's inevitable that they will overtake us, and perhaps the powers that be are waiting until we really hit the bottom before trying to climb our way out. 

Galway are perhaps also looking ahead of us to that Leinster final in July, and maybe, unlike every sporting rule teams live by, they can afford to do just that, such is the feeble resistance we pose. They creased us in the league. They beat Tipperary, a team that also put the boot in heavy on us, and now at Championship pace, they're even more formidable.

We beat Kerry in the league and stumbled over Westmeath in the Leinster quarter-final, albeit showing great heart and spirit on both occasions. There's only so far that will carry you at this level, and perhaps Wexford, the media, fans and pundits are all right to overlook us. We're in for a hiding this weekend, of course, but when is the rot going to stop? 

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