Flanagan Under No Illusions As Offaly Face Into Win Or Bust Games

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Flanagan Under No Illusions As Offaly Face Into Win Or Bust Games thumbnailSean Doyle of Offaly is wrestled to the ground by Tipperary’s Robbie Kiely and Paddy Codd as Nigel Dunne arrives to aid Doyle.

OFFALY senior football manager, Pat Flanagan is under no illusions about the task facing his side as they face into two win or bust games against Sligo and Laois with relegation to Division 4 of the National Football League staring them right in the face.

After a shocking thirty point mauling by Armagh, Offaly steadied the ship somewhat with an improved performance against Tipperary in Tullamore on Sunday but it still ended disappointingly for them as they suffered a 2-15 to 2-11 defeat.

Ahead by 2-9 to 1-6 early in the second half, Offaly were in an ideal position to push on for a morale boosting win but it unraveled badly after that as they were outscored by 1-9 to 0-2 in the closing half an hour and left rooted to the bottom of Division 3.

First up is Sligo next Sunday in Sligo and if Offaly don't get at least a point out of here, they will be relegated.

Pat Flanagan acknowledged on Monday that they have to win their remaining two games if they are to stay up.

'I said after the Armagh game that we are in a three game league and have to win two of our games. Now it is a two game league and we have to win two. If we don't, we are in trouble. They are knockout games and they are like championship matches for us.'

He wasn't as despondent on Sunday as after the Armagh game but Flanagan was still downbeat as he reflected on a missed opportunity. 'It was a better performance than Armagh but we left it behind us. We got ourselves into a winning position and we coughed it up very easy. There were harsh decisions against us but we were outscored heavily in the end. They got a couple of very soft frees when we were six points up, their second goal came when surrounded one of their players. The ball was thrown out, and it took four of our players out of it. They scored 1-4 in the space of a few minutes. Our boys put in a serious effort but we ran out of steam against the wind.'

He is still at a loss to explain what happened in Armagh. 'It was a difficult day. Everything we tried went wrong. Everything they tried went right. Personally, I thought it was a freak result. Before that our heaviest defeat had been five or six points. There was no basis for that happening.

'We did the right thing, we met on the Wednesday night after it, we drew a line under it and we moved on. Tipperary are very strong at this moment in time. Even though we were in a position to win it, we couldn't see it out.'

A fine win over Laois in the Leinster U-21 Football Championship semi-final last Wednesday night gave a boost to some players on the panel and Flanagan said: 'We have to judge the U-21 on its own merits but it was great for them to beat Laois and reach the U-21 final. It is a long time since we have been in an underage final so it is great to see that.'

For Flanagan, however, there was no time to relax as he had to attend a meeting with Offaly GAA club chairmen on Thursday night after he came in for criticism at a County Board meeting after the Armagh horror show.

He acknowledged the right of people to voice opinions and express themselves but he was disappointed at the tone of the meeting and some of the comments that were passed.

'I have no issues with meeting people but the meeting was a non event to be totally honest. I was very disappointed with some of the comments that were made. I asked one gentleman to retract what he said. There was no substance behind what he said and it was of no benefit to Offaly football. What happened in Armagh was dire from our perspective and it was a once off as far as I am concerned. People would be better off looking at how they can assist us in our efforts to achieve a better standing. There is a lot of things they could be doing.'

A lot of adverse comment has been passed about the Armagh game, including the fact that players traveled north by car rather than on a bus. Flanagan explained that they had traveled by car to a challenge game in Fermanagh a few weeks previously, played very well there and felt the transport arrangements had been a factor in that.

'The whole idea behind cars was that our away form had not been good. We played very well in Fermanagh and we thought it might benefit us in Armagh by traveling in cars. People see it as a reason why we lost but it had nothing to do with it. In fact most players reported that they felt better and fresher than normal. With something like the Armagh game, everyone throws things into the melting pot.'

Stressing that he wasn't looking for excuses, he pointed out that they are down eight players from last year's panel. Eoin Rigney and Conor McNamee were injured for the Tipp game while Niall McNamee, John Moloney and Anton Sullivan have not featured in the league at all. Michael Brazil got a straight red card on Sunday and will miss Sunday's crunch show down in Sligo.

The Clara man confirmed that John Moloney is back in training and making progress which should have him right for the championship while Anton Sullivan will be back on board once he returns from army duty in the Lebanon but there is more worrying 'news' about the availability of star attacker, Niall McNamee who has been out with a stomach injury

'I have not been in touch with Niall McNamee and he has not been in touch with me. There are no updates about his injury,' the manager remarked.

Antrim's win over Laois means that Offaly and Laois are now on the bottom with two points each and with Offaly having a very bad scoring difference, they are in real trouble. Antrim and Longford are ahead of them on four points and Sligo are not out of the mix yet as they have five points.

It means that Offaly must get at least a draw on Sunday and ideally a win but they are up against it. Their confidence has taken a battering in recent weeks and while Offaly are always capable of a big performance, especially when their backs are to the wall, the odds favour Sligo and a return to Division 4 is very much on the cards for the visitors - with their scoring difference, a defeat will put them down on Sunday so the stakes are really huge for Offaly.


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