Sports

Offaly U-21 Footballers Begin Championship Tonight

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Offaly U-21 Footballers Begin Championship Tonight thumbnailRuairi McNamee will Captain the Offaly U-21 footballers tonight as they open their championship campaign in Gracefield at 7.30p.m.

THE OFFALY U-21 footballers take to the championship stage tonight (Wednesday) when they take on Wexford in Gracefield at 7.30p.m. Wexford have the benefit of a game in the championship already with a win over Carlow last week but Offaly will be keen to get a run in the championship and start off in impressive fashion on home soil.

Jointly managed by James Stewart (Clara) and Declan Farrell (Edenderry), Offaly have over two months work under their belts and have worked closely along side the senior set up with Senior manager Pat Flanagan also a selector on the team along with Rhode's Pat Daly and last year's minor football manager Padraig Murray.

Speaking to the Tribune on Tuesday, joint manager James Stewart explained how having U-21 players involved with the senior set-up has benefited the players.

'We have had since after Christmas with them. We got briefed late as things dragged on as you know and it landed at our door but we were glad to take it up. The crossover at that stage was 10 players that were training with the seniors that were also prospective U-21's.

'Lads have got good experience in training with the seniors. The game and training experience they got along with finding out about the culture of being an inter-county footballer, they know what's involved now.'

The U-21 grade is one that can be hard to figure out at times. There is no hiding and one defeat ends your year, many would say it is proper championship football with no back door.

'I told the guys that. It is the last year of U-21 as well. It is a chance to wear the county jersey as well. We have to turn up and perform on Wednesday night', explained the Clara joint manager.

The challenge of Wexford will be a tough one. They had a convincing away win over Carlow in the opening round and are a big, towering team who are well able to score.

Offaly will be without Kyle Higgins (Ferbane) and Alan Geoghegan (Durrow) through injury. Higgins got concussed last week and is out for two weeks while Alan Geoghegan is out with a broken arm.

The Offaly defence will be anchored by David Dempsey at full back while there will be a sprinkling of Senior experience throughout the team. Ruairi McNamee, Shane Tierney, Clint Horan, Adam Mahon, David Dempsey and Jack Clancy have all played for the Offaly senior team in some capacity this year while goalkeeper Barry Rohan also made his senior debut in the O'Byrne Cup back in January.

The team will be captained by Rhode's Ruairi McNamee while Paddy Dunican of Shamrocks will be a pivotal figure at centre forward. Dunican is now back fully committed to GAA after spells with Athlone Town and Drogheda in the League of Ireland.

Speaking on his return, Stewart is delighted with the progress he has made since his return to the panel.

'Paddy is a very good soccer goalkeeper and hadn't been involved in recent times but we left no stone unturned and we made the call. He came in which was great. He was rusty as you can imagine going from playing in goals for soccer to outfield in GAA but with every session and every ball he kicked, he has improved and he is well worth his start."

The team in full to take on Wexford tonight is as follows:

1 Barry Rohan (Shannonbridge); 2 Clint Horan (Clodiagh Gaels), 3 David Dempsey (Ballycommon), 4 Colm Doyle (Clara); 5 Adam Mahon (Edenderry), 6 Carl Stewart (Clara), 7 P.J. Daly (Cappincur); 8 James Lalor (Raheen), 9 Jordan Hayes (Edenderry); 10 Ciaran Farrell (Edenderry), 11 Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks), 12 Jack Walsh (Gracefield); 13 Jack Clancy (Belmont), 14 Ruairi McNamee (Rhode, captain), 15 Shane Tierney (Daingean).

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