NFL Division Three: Offaly manager ‘very impressed’ with Louth ahead of Sunday’s meeting
By Caoimhín Reilly
Offaly manager Pat Flanagan has called Louth “very impressive” ahead of Sunday’s Allianz National Football League round three match between the counties in Tullamore.
Louth currently sit top of the Division Three table, being the only side with maximum points, and Flanagan believes that the league leaders will pose the Faithful’s stiffest test to date.
“It’s going to be a very tough game for us,” Flanagan told Talk of the Town.
“They’re moving exceptionally well and they have gotten a lot of encouragement with the success they have had in O’Byrne Cup right up to the final. it’s going to be an extremely difficult game.
“I was very impressed with their performance against Laois, in particular. They’re running and support was very, very successful and very impressive.
“Sometimes people disregard the O’Byrne Cup for some reason but it was very successful for them and their quality of play was good.
“But, obviously, the game that stood out was the Laois game and the manner in which they went about their business, the performance that they put in and the pace that they brought to the game, especially when you see Laois going up and beating Armagh.
“It’s certainly going to be an extremely difficult game.”
Sunday’s hosts got themselves off the mark in Division Three courtesy of their comprehensive 13-point win over Antrim in O’Connor Park a fortnight ago, a victory which went some way to atoning for their poor performance in losing to Longford the week before.
And, Flanagan believes that getting their first two-points of the campaign was imperative and explained how prior performances fell below the standards required.
“We were disappointed with our performance against Longford to be totally honest,” the Faithful boss explained.
“We went up there full of hope and thought that we could play well but we didn’t perform and Longford beat us comprehensively on the day.
“So, we needed to come back to Tullamore and get to grips with it and the work we had done and put in. We had to try and put in a good performance and we did that against Antrim.
“But to be fair Antrim had made the long trip down to Tipperary the previous weekend and then had to travel down to us the week after so fatigue set in there particularly in the second-half.
“Basically, we were disappointed with the Longford match, we played Antrim and now we have to see can we put two performances together.”
The victory over the Saffrons has somewhat changed the mindset in Offaly with promotion, rather than avoiding relegation, looking a possibility should they account for Louth this weekend, particularly with the Division’s pre-season favourites, Tipperary and Armagh, having already dropped points.
Flanagan’s side missed out on promotion to the second-tier in 2016 having been pipped by Clare on scoring difference, and this year they would be intent on going one better and getting up.
“We would have aspirations of trying to achieve that mark (promotion) this year.
“We were extremely disappointed last year. We finished on eight-points along with Longford and Clare (who finished second) and we beat both of those teams so if it had to be a head-to-head with one of them we would have went up.
“We have to take each game as it comes though and based on our Longford performance we still have an awful lot of work to do, but we would have aspirations of at least putting ourselves in the frame for promotion and hopefully see where we go.
“But to be totally honest, this league is exceptionally tough and every team is there on merit whether they have come down or up. Division Three was exceptionally tough last year and it’s probably going to be even tougher this year.”
The Clara native elaborated on this point further by saying how important it is to be playing in the higher Divisions if championship progress is to be attained.
Flanagan also believes that the progress of Tipperary and Clare, who both operated out of Division Three last year, was an “exception” and unlikely to be a trend going forward.
“In my time with Westmeath I would have always said that you need to get to Division One to play the top teams and improve your championship football and, although I wasn’t part of it, Westmeath went on to get to Leinster finals after being in Division One so you do learn an awful lot from those two top grades.
“By-and-large, it’s the top teams in Division One and Two who go long distances in the championship. There were two exceptions (Clare and Tipperary) but I’m not sure that always going to be the way so the whole idea would be to get to the highest place we can possibly get to and that would be our aim in the coming season.”
In terms of availability for this weekend’s game, Flanagan boasts a full bill of health with the exceptions of Niall McNamee, who is still to return to the set-up with injury, and Anton Sullivan.
The Offaly manager also has decisions to make over the McNamee brothers, Conor and Rúairí, with both being part of the county’s u21 panel preparing for Wednesday night’s Leinster championship meeting with Wexford.
“Niall has a stomach issue so he’s not available to us and Anton Sullivan is abroad with the army but apart from them we have what we had the last day.
“I suppose the beauty of that situation is that my management team are looking after the u21s so we have the option of playing or not playing some of those guys.
“We still have to assess the situation tomorrow night and see where fellas are at.”