Cork lost some big games to Offaly but their demise is tough to watch

Cork lost some big games to Offaly but their demise is tough to watch
Seán Óg races clear of Johnny Pilkington, Offaly. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

TWENTY-one years ago an Offaly manager departed in mid-season after the county had lost the Leinster final to Kilkenny.

Babs Keating called out his players in the aftermath of the loss, stating that they were like sheep in a heap.

He was gone shortly afterward, replaced by Michael Bond and a few months later Offaly were All-Ireland champions.

It was some turnaround in such a short space of time.

This week the Faithful County dispensed with another manager in mid-season, former player Kevin Martin taking leave. In came another former star, Joachim Kelly but the likelihood of him doing a Bond on it are a million to one.

Of course, it couldn’t happen anyway because Offaly no longer reside in hurling’s top echelons.

They are now a second-tier county, competing in the Joe McDonagh Cup and not doing very well in it either.

In fact, if things don’t improve quickly they’ll be in the third tier next season, participation in the Christy Ring Cup.

Down here there might not be too much notice of what’s going on in Offaly GAA circles but surely anyone with a love for hurling must be sad at what’s happening.

The first question to pose, how has it come to this, to a county that took home the McCarthy Cup just 21 years ago?

Some of the facts are staggering. At senior level, the county has just one win to its credit over a McCarthy cup opponent in this decade, Wexford in 2012. They did beat Limerick in 2010 but that was a shadow Limerick team because of a players strike.

Their record at minor and U21 level isn’t much better and there seems to be no end in sight for the travails that are tearing the county apart. These days the likes of Westmeath can take them asunder as they did last weekend in the McDonagh Cup.

In fact, right now would there be any county playing hurling at any level afraid of facing Offaly?

A couple of good men have come on board with Kelly to form the new management team until the end of the season, Paddy Kirwan, Brian Carroll and Ger Oakley. All are former quality players with the county and surely they will get some sort of response from the players who have made themselves available to play that will keep them out of the Christy Ring Cup next season.

The new management team can only have one modest ambition during their tenure and that is to prevent the fall becoming greater.

One would really have to be living in the county and being aware of what is really going on to understand the demise that is now crippling the game we all love in the county.

It wasn’t a lifetime ago that the likes of Brian Whelehan, Joe and Johnny Dooley, Daithi Regan, Michael Duignan, Johnny Pilkington, John Troy and so many more were hurling’s top dogs.

Those days won’t come back again but right now nobody is looking for that, the genuine supporter up there just wants a bit of pride to be restored.

Is that too much to ask for from what was once a fine hurling county?

Meanwhile, the action in Leinster continues this weekend with Galway hosting Wexford in Salthill.

After their concession of a late, late goal to Dublin last weekend, this has now become a game that Wexford need to get something from.

And that won’t be easy against the home side who will not want to be as sluggish as they were for long periods against Carlow who subsequently got trounced by Kilkenny last Sunday.

Kilkenny and Galway look odds on to come out of Leinster but it’s the third place that is really up for grabs between Dublin and Wexford.

Davy Fitz stated that Wexford are right up there with the best in Leinster after last Sunday’s draw in Parnell Park.

On Sunday they get an opportunity to prove it.

However, expect a Galway victory.

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