WHILE relegation from Division 1B of the National Hurling League is a live prospect for Offaly, it must be stressed that their future is in their own hands -they welcome Galway to Tullamore next Sunday for the first part of a double bill that will be followed by Offaly's crunch National Football League Division 3 game against Carlow and their last game is away to Carlow on March 3.
After a demoralising loss to Laois on Saturday night, morale will be low but the fact that they can turn it around themselves without relying on others is sure to give them some solace.
The final 20 minutes of the first half where it went from Offaly winning 0-4 to 0-3 to losing 2-13 to 0-6 by half time was the losing of the game.
“We beat ourselves in the first half. We didn’t work hard enough, left ourselves too much to do, and we nearly got there in the end but it’s just all down to work rate in the first half, it wasn’t there.
“There was no intensity there in the first half, they were playing reaction hurling and they weren’t off the mark. They were getting turned over, they weren’t getting breaks which is really uncharacteristic because we had a good week in training and they were going well.
“In fairness to Laois, they were going well, they’ve some nice young players coming up and I know a good few of them, they’re decent players. It was always going to be a tough battle, they got the scores in the first half and they left us too much to do”, explained Offaly boss Kevin Martin.
Offaly were on the comeback trail in the second half but a third Laois goal killed the game off.
“The worst thing was to concede another goal in the second half. In fairness to Laois they worked the ball well, they ran at us and split the defence a few times. Purcell in particular got through and created the second half goal but again it was all about the work rate in the first half.”
Offaly welcomed back Joe Bergin into the fold for the first time this year and his haul of 1-8 and his all round work rate pleased Kevin Martin even if he believed others could have worked harder.
“In fairness to Joe, he’s an old soldier but he’s a good one. I thought Colin Egan emptied the tank as well. But there’s questions to be asked. The players have to ask questions about their commitment there tonight, whether they gave everything or not. They’ll have to digest it over the weekend and we’re back on Tuesday night, and we’ll talk about it, see where we can tweak things to make things better.”
Relegation is now a real possibility for Offaly. They sit bottom of Division 1B with no points with Carlow on one point just above them and Laois on two a place further up the table. With the bottom two (currently Offaly and Carlow) set to meet in a relegation final, the games with Laois v Carlow this weekend and Offaly v Carlow on March 3rd will be critical to the fortunes of all three counties.
Division 2 hurling awaits for the loser of the relegation final. Westmeath look the favourites to win Division 2 and get promoted meaning the side relegated from 1B this year will join the likes of Antrim, Kerry, Mayo, London and Meath next year while Derry are likely to be promoted from Division 2B.
Relegation would be a massive body blow but instead of bemoaning it, all stakeholders have to put their shoulder to the wheel now to make sure it doesn't come to that.
See page 63 for previews of this week's big games.