Offaly manager John Maughan speaks to his charges at the O’Byrne Cup match against Longford in Faithful Fields, Kilcormac last night (Wednesday).

O’Byrne Cup displays give Offaly cause for optimism

In his 20th year as an Offaly senior footballer, Niall McNamee is still showing the way, popping up with 1-1 in injury time to give Offaly a one-point win over Longford in the O’Byrne Cup last night (Wednesday) .

It goes without saying that Offaly have bigger fish to fry than the O’Byrne Cup in 2022 so winning or losing the game is not hugely consequential either way, yet at the same time there’s a value to getting into a winning habit.

John Maughan’s men were extremely competitive against Dublin last weekend, particularly at either end of the field where the full back and full forward lines were excellent. But a little bit of bad luck for the first Dublin goal and then chasing the game for their second meant that it was Dessie Farrell’s side who came away with the win.

The nature of this year’s league is such that Offaly have to be ready to hit the ground running, since no opportunity to pick up points can be missed. Galway and Derry are probably the two strongest teams in Division 2 and Offaly play both of them inside the first three weeks, so if nothing is harvested from the round one trip to Ennis to play Clare, it could be a bleak league table by the halfway point in the league.

That said, the two performances so far have been hugely encouraging, particularly given the number of players that have seen game time.

Offaly was also extremely well-represented in the Sigerson Cup during the week, with Rory Egan, Ciarán Donnelly, Shane Tierney and Jack Bryant among those who played well for colleges that look ready to go deep into the competition.

In the county colours, Dylan Hyland made a very bright debut while Bernard Allen and Jordan Hayes were among the better performers on Wednesday evening, and no doubt there will be plenty more players putting their hand up for consideration this Saturday in Louth (Páirc Mhuire, Ardee 2pm).

It’s a daunting league campaign ahead, but already the prognosis looks considerably brighter than even just a few weeks ago.

- Kevin Egan