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Carroll and Cunningham on schedule as Dunne opts for football

Thursday, 4 January 2018

KEY Offaly senior footballers, Eoin Carroll and Peter Cunningham are on schedule in their recovery from long term injuries, manager Stephen Wallace confirmed after Saturday's impressive 3-16 to 0-9 win over Wexford in the O'Byrne Cup.

Cappincur man Carroll got a knee operation after Offaly's championship exit last summer while Bracknagh's Peter Cunningham is recuperating from a troublesome groin injury. Both will be out of action until the latter stages of the National Football League campaign and will miss the crucial opening rounds.

There had been speculation that Carroll's recovery was not going according to plan but Wallace remarked that he was exactly where he should be at this stage. "Eoin Carroll is bang on schedule. He is bang on where we want him to be. There might be pressure on Eoin Carroll, possibly from other sources, that he should be back or he shouldn't be back but his operation was a success and he is exactly where he should be right now in terms of his progression."

He added: "You would be hopeful you will have both back by mid to late league. They are working hard. They had two bad injuries. They are back but they are not going to ride in on a white horse and just get their place back. These young guys are playing good football so they are going to have to knuckle down if they want to get their place back."

Offaly will also be without Tullamore's John Moloney for the early league games - Moloney broke a hand and won't be playing football for another four to six weeks, according to the manager.

Offaly are currently operating with a tight panel of 30 players and Wallace stated that they don't have the luxury of going "40 or 50 deep" like other counties. "One or two guys might have to go", he said, pointing out that Ruari McNamee and Ruari Allen, who are abroad for the year, are big losses to a tight panel.

It has also been confirmed that key forward Nigel Dunne has decided to concentrate on football and not pursue a dual path with Offaly hurlers. The Shamrocks man had been called into Kevin Martin's initial Offaly senior hurling panel but was given an immediate insight into the difficulties that would lie ahead last Saturday when Offaly were fixed to play O'Byrne Cup and Walsh Cup games at the same time in Tullamore and Banagher.

With Niall McNamee having retired, Dunne will now be one of Offaly's most important forwards and he had an excellent 2017, culminating in selection as the Offaly senior B footballer of the year. While a capable hurler, Dunne's main talent is with football and he has confirmed that he is concentrating on football because of the likelihood of fixtures clashes.

Stephen Wallace was somewhat coy on the subject when asked about it on Saturday. Asked was Nigel Dunne still pursuing a dual path, he stated that the player himself should be asked but he pointed out that the player was in Tullamore, even though he was suspended for the Wexford match having got sent off in this competition last year, and that people could 'read what they want' into that!!

He also spoke about speculation that Ken Casey is set for a return to the panel. The former St Brigid's player starred for St Loman's of Mullingar in their run to the Leinster club final where they suffered a devastating late defeat against Moorfield and Wallace stated that he spoke to him a few weeks ago and will be speaking to him again shortly.

Daingean's Shane Tierney came on as a sub on Saturday, scoring a point, having been left off the panel some weeks ago, along with Cappincur's P.J. Daly. "Shane Tierney was in, Shane Tierney was out, Shane Tierney is back in and he came on today and kicked a point. A good young fellow. Shane Tierney has been an Offaly minor, U21 and look what was, happened and that's it. Shane Tierney is back in and we move on, draw a line under it, forget about it."

P.J. Daly has not come back in and all Wallace would say was: "Look we have a panel of players and who is here is here. I am not going to talk about players who aren't here."

The Kerry man was happy with the way Offaly played on Saturday. "They are good lads. They are enthusiastic and they are buying into what we are doing which is half the battle. They are very coachable. They are young and they are eager."

He spoke about the performance of young players such as Jordan Hayes and Cian Johnson. "Jordan got two goals, Cian got 1-3, I think we finished with seven or eight of last year's U-21 team. I am including Cian Johnson in that, he is straight out of the minors but he is a great talent. You wouldn't want to be putting too much pressure on him. We will develop him and he has a big future.

"Cian Johnson is far from the finished product, he is a very good young fellow and his skills are developing, he is getting better, he is getting stronger. The stark realisation is Cian Johnson puts on a school uniform on a Monday morning and goes to school. He is playing senior inter county football so we have to be careful with the pressure we put on him. Look we put him in there today to see what he can do and he didn't disappoint. He is definitely one for the future and I am delighted he is in with us.

"You might be saying that Offaly haven't been winning a lot of football games at senior level but these young fellows have. They were in the Leinster U-21 final last year. These guys are used to winning and that is a good habit. I think instead of the older guys rubbing off on the younger guys, the younger guys are rubbing off on the older guys. These guys are used to winning football games.

"The young guys are manning up, it is every shoulder to the wheel, they are getting fitter and they are buying in. We are off to a win which is a good start."

What do you hope to get out of the O'Byrne Cup. "We have Dublin on Wednesday night. The league is the priority but it is brilliant for these young lads to be going up to play the All-Ireland champions. It might be their second string team but Parnell Park under lights is always special. It is their first outing since winning the All-Ireland. It is a big test but that is where every young Offaly footballer should aspire to be. Test yourselves and see where you are at. If we beat Dublin we beat them but I am not expecting to win the O'Byrne Cup. I am expecting to use it to develop players, to take a look at what we have and gear up for the league."

While looking forward to the Dublin game on Wednesday night, Wallace is not worried about whether they come out of the group or not. "If we come out of the group great but we are after getting two good games and we are gearing up for the league. Those two games will stand to us and if we have to go back into training after that, so be it and we gear up for Longford on the 28th here in Tullamore. Right now we are gearing up for Dublin on Wednesday night and what will be will be."

He agreed that the Longford game is a massive one for Offaly. "Absolutely, it is well documented. I think it took Offaly four years to beat Longford in the championship over the last while. That is enough said. We will be home here in Tullamore but will Longford be the favourites? They seem to have the indian sign over Offaly at the minute but we will try and change it."

Meanwhile Offaly have made one change for Wednesday's game in Dublin with long serving goalkeeper Alan Mulhall getting the start in goals - Mulhall did not feature last Saturday as Paddy Dunican started and Barry Rohan came on as a sub.

The Offaly team and subs are:

Alan Mulhall (Walsh Island); Daithi Brady (Edenderry), James Lalor (Raheen), Sean Pender (Edenderry); David Dempsey (Ballycommon), Cian Donohue (St Brigid's), Declan Hogan (Tullamore); Craig Dunne (Gracefield), Shane Nally (Ferbane); Jordan Hayes (Edenderry), Anton Sullivan (Rhode), Michael Brazil (Tullamore); Bernard Allen (Tubber), Cian Johnson ((Ferbane), Sean Doyle (Edenderry). Subs - Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks), Gerry Spollen (Ballinamere), Nigel Dunne (Shamrocks), Jack Egan (Ferbane), Joe O'Connor (St Rynagh's), Bobby O'Dea (Durrow), Paul McConway (Tullamore), Conor McNamee (Rhode), Shane Tierney (Daingean), Barry Rohan (Shannonbridge), Niall Darby (Rhode),

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