Maughan: Offaly would have gladly played Division 3 final next week

OFFALY AND DERRY will share the Division 3 title after winning their respective semi-finals yesterday.

The GAA were reluctant to have divisional finals involving any of the 14 teams who are out in championship a week later. The Faithful begin their Leinster SFC campaign against Louth on 27 June, ruling out a showdown in Croke Park with Rory Gallagher’s in-form side next weekend.

Following their 1-14 to 0-12 defeat of Fermanagh, Faithful boss John Maughan said he’d have gladly taken a Division 3 final a week before the clash against Mickey Harte’s men.

“Yeah I would. We’d have gladly, if it was in Croke Park, we’d gladly have played a final next week before championship,” he said. 

“I’d say a lot of those Offaly boys have never been in Croke Park never mind play in it so it would have been a nice prize. ”

Offaly are Maughan’s fifth county to manage following stints with Clare, Mayo (twice), Fermanagh and Roscommon. He’s encountered former Tyrone boss Harte a few times on the sidelines over the years and knows they’ll face a well set-up Louth side in a fortnight. 

“Oh yeah he will,” he smiled. “That’s why you’re involved in the game, that’s the challenge to see now can we unpick them and beat them. That’s what it’s all about.

“It would have been more difficult if we’d lost today but the fact that you’re coming on the back of a victory there will be a bit of a bounce in our step.”

In his third year over the Faithful County, Maughan was thrilled with their promotion to the second tier. Niall McNamee is the sole surviving player who played in the 16-team Division 1 back in 2006.

“I think it’s 15 years, he would have because he’s 35 now. I think it’s 15 years since we were in Division 2.

“This is like our championship,” Maughan continued. “You can see what it means to the families and the players themselves. It’s a good day because we’ve a lot of young talent and young footballers that want to play for Offaly.

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Offaly’s Jordan Hayes, Cian Farrell’s grandfather Phillip Farrell and Ruairíi McNamee celebrate after the game.

Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

“I think they’ll learn more by playing in a higher division, I’m not knocking Division 3 there’s a good opposition there and there’s good opposition going down to Division 4 as we discovered earlier on today. But lookit, they will improve by playing against higher and better opposition in Division 2.

“That was always our aspiration and thankfully the league format this year probably suited us. People were suggesting that the northern section was a tougher one but Cavan fell on their sword today with Wicklow turning them over so Division 2 football was certainly our target.”

Offaly kicked 0-14 in the first 52 minutes, but went scoreless for the next 18 until Mark Abbott’s goal in the final minute of normal time. 

“We’ve had games like that in the past when we were hanging on and lose, but we hung on and won. If we had taken some of our goal chances, I mean we hit the post a couple of times. Three times I think in fact.

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“If we had bagged one of those early on we might have taken the sting out of Fermanagh. But Fermanagh are here on credit. I know they had three points from their three game. I suppose the man being sent off for them gave us a numerical advantage and that was telling as well.

“But typical of Fermanagh, like I was over them 20 years ago. I know they’ve great heart and they got a couple patch there for us in the second quarter and going down the final stretch. But Niall McNamee turned the ball over and laid it on a plate for Mark Abbott to put it into the net. That was the difference at the end. 

“That’s the thing. Unfortunately we lost a couple of kick-outs and didn’t win primary possession. The momentum swung in favour of Fermanagh and that happens I suppose.

“It’s not an exact science so they got their purple patch and wind-assisted kicked some good scores. They have a bit of talent around the place.”

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