Emotional Flanagan Celebrates As Offaly Bring Curtain Down On Mixed Week By Retaining Division 3 Status
Thursday, 6 April 2017
THE curtain came down on a mixed week for Offaly football with a nerve tingling 3-15 to 4-11 win over neighbours Laois securing their status in Division 3 of the National Football League in O'Connor Park on Sunday.
A championship like atmosphere prevailed as Offaly just held on to win after Laois came back from nine and eight points at different stages of a drama packed game. Right at the end of injury time, Laois almost secured the draw that would have saved their bacon and put Offaly down when a shot from corner back, Darren Strong was waved wide - there was plenty of debate afterwards about whether it had went in or outside the posts but the final whistle went immediately after Alan Mulhall's kickout as Laois went down to Division 4.
Earlier in the week, Offaly's best had not been good enough as they succumbed to an anticipated heavy defeat, 2-14 to 0-8, by Dublin in the Leinster U-21 Football Championship final in Portlaoise.
However, Sunday's win provided a real high and it represented a remarkable turn around for Offaly who were odds on for relegation after a shocking thirty point defeat by Armagh and a second half collapse in loss to Tipperary in their next game.
A very good win on the road in Sligo meant that Offaly's fate was in their own hands on Sunday but only a win would have kept them up and it ended up way tighter than it should have been as the home side played very well on the day and were 5 to 6 points the better team.
After the game, Offaly manager Pat Flanagan spoke with real intensity about the win and how important it was for them to stay up.
'It was emotional, not for myself but for the players. They got a lot of abuse for what happened a few weeks ago and they didn't deserve it. I know the effort that they're putting in and I certainly hope that no-one will ever question the level of commitment these guys have for the Offaly jersey,' he outlined.
He spoke about the aftermath of the Armagh debacle.
'We decided to just draw a line through what happened in Armagh, we never even looked back on it because there was no basis to what happened that day. We decided that we were just going to have a three game league and we needed to win two games out of it. We had a bit of a hangover against Tipperary and other than that we could have won that game. We really pushed on against Sligo last week, we had a good win up there, and it all fell to this game.
'We had to win it several times, we were well ahead on a few occasions, but for us to stick in and hang in there, it showed the passion and the desire of the players.'
Flanagan also talked about the impact the defeats had on him, setbacks that resulted in calls for his removal as manager and him going to a special County Board meeting to address clubs.
'No-one will hurt me from outside more than I'll hurt myself inside. I had to question myself and you become a better person and a better manager for things like that. You have to rethink how you do things and while everyone else was talking, we were planning a way to make sure we stayed in division three, because I think we need to be there.
'I did hurt, I said it at the time that I didn't sleep for three nights, but that wasn't because of anything that was being said, I don't pay any attention to social media. I did feel sorry for my wife and family because some of the things that were said weren't nice or justified. But at the end of the day it's all about the players, they were questioned about whether they were playing for me and they answered that today.'
He felt that the improved weather conditions were a factor in Offaly's improvement.
'If you have a look outside, the sun is shining and we're always a better team when the sun is out. You have to take things into perspective too, we played Sligo last year and beat them by two points, and from that team we're down Eoin Rigney, John Moloney, Conor McNamee, Niall Smith, Niall McNamee, Mickey Brazil (who missed the Sligo game but played last Sunday), Anton Sullivan and one or two other guys that were on the fringes that day.
'All year we've been missing seven or eight players from last year's starting team and it's very difficult when you haven't got the time to build up other players and to have them ready for this level. It's a very competitive league, there's games that we could have won that we lost by three or four points, but today we stuck to our guns and had we all those players to strengthen our game plan, it could have been a very different league.
'Our championship started last week, we've effectively two championship games played now. You saw the battling out there, there's nobody going to have it easy here. We'll prepare as well as we possibly can for the coming game and we'll see where it takes us.'
He also spoke about speculation over Niall McNamee's involvement this year - the Rhode marksman, still Offaly's most important player, didn't play in the league as he battled a stomach problem but having played recent league games for his club, there have been rumours that he won't play for Offaly this year.
The Clara man didn't have any real news, other than saying:
'I spoke to Niall and he is hoping possibly to come back after a couple of rounds of the club championship if things work out. Niall is still suffering from a stomach injury, but we'll see how he's fixed after a couple of rounds of the Offaly championship.'
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