Martin relishing championship challenge

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kevin@tullamoretribune.ie

IT hasn’t been the smoothest of reigns for Kevin Martin so far. Now in his second year as Offaly senior hurling manager, the Tullamore man is as passionate and determined as ever to be successful with Offaly.

After relegation from the league down to Division Two for 2020, Martin and his charges are welcoming the championship challenge.

Victory in the Joe McDonagh cup will see them regain their status in the Leinster championship next year but they have a lot of hurdles to face before that can happen.

Laois, Westmeath, Antrim and Kerry will be Offaly’s opponents and while each will pose their own significant threat, Kevin Martin is not looking past their first battle with Laois on Saturday.

Defeat to Laois in the league played a big part in their relegation from the league but Martin admitted that Laois deserved their win that day.

“We were poor in the league game I have to say and to be fair to them, they were good that day. Reports coming out of their camp are that they are going very well so we will be going in as underdogs. We have it all to do on Saturday night but we have been working hard on the training ground and we are hoping a few things come off for us.

“It will take a huge effort and from one to 15 it will have to be 120 percent.”

The game takes place in O’Connor Park and while they didn’t win a game there in the league this year, Martin is hoping that the home advantage will count for something and he issued a plea to supporters to come out in force.

“You would be hoping the home crowd would come out and shout us on. We like playing in O’Connor Park ourselves so home advantage should be worth a couple of points to you.

“I hope the supporters do come out because these lads have been working hard all year and they deserve support.

“Things didn’t go our way in the league but it’s the championship now and I am putting it out there for the Offaly people to come out and support us.”

Time is something he would have liked more of in the build up to the championship as a couple of round of club championships saw injuries picked up to key personnel.

“We picked up a lot of injuries from that. We have four or five lads that are out for the weekend but would hope to have them back for the Westmeath game. All the lads that have stepped into their shoes have shown and trained well.”

The league relegation is something that hit all concerned hard. It took a while to come to terms with it but that is well and truly parked now according to the 1994 and 1998 All Ireland medal winner.

“It would have taken a lot out of them (league relegation) but they would have gone back to their clubs for four weekends for club championship.

“The league was disappointing but what can you do about it now? We had to park it to one side and focus on the championship.

“It is in the past and we have to move forward with the process. In fairness, we all took the league disappointment fairly bad but it is behind us now this few weeks. It’s championship time now.”

The injury problems in recent weeks haven’t been ideal in terms of training but they have got on with things.

“We have been short numbers at times through injuries but the quality of the training has been decent. We have prepared as best we can. We would have liked another month but we are at where we are at. We are in a good place.”

Ann Marie Kennedy and Dave Matthews have been high profile additions to the backroom team during the league with Kennedy working on the psychology end of things and former Olympian Matthews in as the strength and conditioning coach. Kevin Martin has been delighted with the input that both have brought.

“Ann Marie has been talking to the guys one on one and had a few group sessions. David has brought huge experience into the fitness side of things.

“Again, he would have liked more lads training in the last three weeks but we were trying to get lads back from injury. He has brought a wealth of experience in terms of strength and speed.”

The tightness of the competition is not lost on Kevin Martin either and he believes his side are underdogs going into it.

“There is only going to be a couple of points between the sides in every game. We are just focused on Laois at the moment and taking every game as it comes. It will be difficult to win it and we are underdogs and deservedly so.”

Kevin Martin was speaking in the Faithful Fields last Sunday morning as his troops began their final week of preparation before the Laois game.

The Faithful Fields has been a big plus to their preparations and on a lighter note, the Offaly boss is envious of the facilities that they have currently.

“It has been huge for us. The pitches have been in great order all year to be fair. It is a godsend and I wish we had it during my time 25 years ago.”

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