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Early season festive tests for Offaly footballers and hurlers

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Early season festive tests for Offaly footballers and hurlers thumbnailAnton Sullivan, a key player for Offaly footballers this year in the wake of the retirement of his Rhode colleagues, Niall McNamee and Brian Darby. OH09-1-21911

OFFALY footballers and hurlers will barely have had time to digest their Christmas dinners before they begin their 2018 campaigns with games next Saturday.
While games on December 30 are unlikely to generate much public interest, there will be more than usual in these ones as they provide the first competitive games for the county's new managers.
Unfortunately for supporters, it will be impossible to see both as the footballers are at home to Wexford in the O'Byrne Cup in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park while St Brendan's Park in Birr will host the hurlers' Walsh Cup outing against Westmeath - the two games have 2.00pm throw ins.
Stephen Wallace's footballers and Kevin Martin's hurlers are likely to field very experimental teams as they prepare for the infinitely more important National Football and Hurling League campaigns.
They will field a mixture of established and younger players. While the early season emphasis will be on blooding the new players that will provide such an integral part of their plans, they will also be conscious of the fact that young players have the best opportunity to showcase their talent when surrounded by the top and more experienced players.
It is a delicate balancing act but neither manager will be too perturbed by their fate in the preliminary Leinster competitions. No manager will be judged by December or January action in the O'Byrne and Walsh Cups but for new players, the stakes are significant as a couple of poor performances could see a line drawn through their name.
It will be interesting to see how the footballers fare against Wexford. Early reports from the camp are encouraging. They performed well in a challenge game against Roscommon and they appear to have undertaking a tough training programme.
Offaly will be adjusting to life without the retired Niall McNamee and Brian Darby while they will face into the early months of the season minus two of their key younger players, Eoin Carroll and Peter Cunningham, who are both recovering from operations. The need for new players to make the grade and for more established players to become leaders is immense and the Wexford game will provide an early, if inconclusive, indication of how things are going.
The same is true for the hurlers who have a number of players back on board but are without long serving goalkeeper James Dempsey who has opted out for the year.
It will be particularly interesting to see both starting teams and in a way, the results and performances don't matter that much.

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