NIALL McNamee, Offaly senior footballers' most experienced player will be joined on the panel next year by Cian Johnson and Cian Farrell, two of the county's most exciting attacking prospects, manager John Maughan has confirmed.
McNamee returned this year having retired a couple of years earlier but Maughan told the Tribune last week that the Rhode sharpshooter will be back for another year.
“Niall will be involved, no question. He really enjoyed last year and I know from the last conversation we had, which was months ago, that he is ready and really keen to go again,” the Mayo man declared.
A surprise appointment last year, Maughan helped Offaly to retain their Division 3 status in the National Football League while they were very close to beating Meath in the Leinster championship and he has returned for a second year with selectors, Gerry O'Malley (Ferbane) and Kevin Guing (Edenderry), along with coach Mark Fee (Dublin) and strength and conditioning man, Damien Sheridan (Cavan).
Edenderry man Cian Farrell and Ferbane's Cian Johnson could not play last year as they were under 20 but Maughan stated that this duo will be asked to step up along with a couple of others from this year's U-20 squad. “I will definitely have them in, there will be three or four U-20s. I hope to have 35 guys involved initially and we may pare this back, depending on how those guys embrace the inter-county scene. We hope to be a steop ahead of the curve in comparison to last year.”
Paul McConway has had a knee operation while his Tullamore colleagues, Nigel Bracken and Aaron Leavy also sustained injuries during the club championship this year along with others. “Quite a few have injuries which is unfortunate for them. Some will make it back, some may not. It is an ongoing process at this time of year.”
Another Tullamore man, Michael Brazil has returned from a stint abroad and he will be back involved again.
Maughan himself has had his own injury problems and got a back operation in Dublin's Mater Hospital two months ago but it went well and his recovery is going according to plan. “It worked out well and I am raring to go. It was quite invasive and I was lying in the Mater for a week but thankfully I have made a good recovery. It was just wear and tear, battering and bruising. Hopefully I will have a lot more energy this year.”
He has no qualms about returning for a second year, describing it as an “honour and a privelege” to be asked. “I have been up in Offaly looking at games, we are looking to spread the net and bring in new players,” he declared.
Under GAA rules, Offaly can't return to collective training until November 6 but management have been giving programmes to players to give them programmes. “Inter-county footballers are very conscientious and will be fit anyway.”
Asked would he be hoping to improve the fitness levels from last year, he remarked: “Fitness was not an issue. It is just a question of having a bit more depth in our squad. Hopefully some of the young lads will add to it and strengthen it. Michael Brazil is back from over-seas travel and along with one or two others, it should make it interesting.”
He hopes that Offaly will be in a position to challenge for promotion in Division 3, though he was quick to point out the strength of teams in the division. “Division 3 is very competitive. It is hard to believe Cork are a Division 3 team. Derry are up from Division 4 with a new management, they will be very competitive. Down are there. I thought they were a real quality side but they didn't get out of Division 3. There is Longford. There is no easy game. We will test ourselves along the way in those games but I hope to be able to match any of those and that is the challenge for us.”
Maughan also said he was in favour of Offaly competing in a new tier 2 championship if it is approved. “I am in favour, I think it will be good for Offaly. I won All-Ireland B titles all those years ago with Clare and Fermanagh and in Clare's situation in particular, it propelled them onto bigger and better things. I am very much in favour of that.”