KEVIN Martin was more upbeat on Sunday than he was in Semple Stadium the Sunday before but he still saw his side fall to a 13 point defeat to Dublin on home soil in the second round of Division 1B of the National Hurling League.
Speaking after the game, Martin expressed his worries at the level of fitness they are at and the mounting injury list that is having a big effect on team selection.
“They (Dublin) kind of ran over us in the last 15 minutes, but we were competitive enough for a good bit of it. There were good parts of it, but we had a let off with the penalty. We’ve a lot of players to come back, we’ve a lot of work to do, fitness levels are not where they should be.
“If you’re fitness levels aren’t there, your head goes and your hurling goes. That’s something that we’re addressing at the minute, we just have to keep at it.”
When asked if he expected to be further down the line in terms of fitness, the Offaly boss commented;
“It is what it is. Some players only came back into the fold in January, we have Ben Conneely to come back from injury, he’ll be back in full contact next weekend. David O’Toole has a knee injury, hoping to have him back next week.
“Conor Mahon in a couple of weeks’ time, Shane Dooley is injured there as well, Joe Bergin, Shane Kinsella. We need to get these boys back sound, we need to get our fitness levels up and it’ll come together.”
To be fair to Offaly on Sunday, they stuck to the task and although Dublin pulled away in the final 15 minutes or so, his charges battled hard, something he agreed with.
“The boys knew they had to put in a performance after last week, that was a disaster. In fairness to them, they gritted their teeth and kept it. They stayed going and stayed going but just tired out then. We have to address this on the training ground, it will be addressed and we just have to work harder.
Offaly now have a week off from league action before returning to action against Laois on the 16th of February and Martin is thankful for the schedule and how the week off has fell.
To get the injuries right and to get a good week’s training in, it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The injury to Ben Conneely has prompted a baptism of fire for Niall Houlihan at full back the last two weeks and the Tullamore man was impressive on the edge of the square on Sunday.
“It was a big ask to be thrown in there full back last week with the injuries, in fairness he stood up to the plate. He did okay last week as well, but with the amount of ball that was going in, scores were going to come off it. I have to say he was solid enough today, he’s making strides and I’m happy with him”, commented the Offaly boss.
Offaly have now lost by 27 and 13 points in their opening two league games but the Tullamore native and former All Ireland winner was a lot happier with his sides' performance on Sunday.
“I’d have to be happier with it. Their chins were on the ground last week after it, so we just had to regroup, get a performance today. It was much better than last week, even though we fizzled out for the last 15 minutes.”
Carlow produced the shock of the league to date when they drew with Galway on Sunday and Martin paid tribute to them. Offaly will take on Carlow in the final round of the league on Sunday March 3rd.
“It’s great for them. They’re probably classed as one of the minnows, along with ourselves in this group, but watching them play Dublin in Parnell Park last week, they’ve great heart. It’s hard to substitute great heart and they’ve some decent hurlers. I shows what can be done if you put your mind to it. We just have to get that going in our own camp.”
The games with Laois and Carlow were always going to be massive and with Laois having shipped two big beatings at the hands of Galway and Waterford, it is a must win for both sides.
“The Laois game, they beat us in the Walsh Cup, they won’t fear Offaly. It’s going to be a tough game, we’re going to have to ground out a win. Carlow drew with Galway, so anything’s possible, but we have to get four points out of the next three games.”
See match report on pages 62 and 63 and see page 61 for report on Offaly footballers’ draw with Longford.