Having ended the 2017 hurling championship in tears, Michael Duignan's first visit back to Croke Park in 2018 gave him another reason to allow a few thoughts and feeling set sail in teardrops.
Offaly sprung from the longest of grass to batter 1/12 favourites Dublin into submission in the opening round of the national league, winning 2-25 to 1-15. Having not won at Croke Park since 2005, Offaly immediately vindicated the Kevin Martin appointment and gave the Faithful, er, faithful something to cling to for the first time in what feels like eons.
I know it's only January, I know it's only the league, I know Dublin hadn't a full team, I know, I know, I know.....but I still have tears in my eyes. Kevin Martin is a man and his team played like men.
— Michael Duignan (@DuignanMichael) January 27, 2018
His old mate Daithi Regan joined us on The So-Called Weaker Podcast to review the Offaly performance, and to listen in full, you can subscribe by clicking below.
While the result was a surprise to most of the country, optimism did abound in Offaly, with Regan citing the fact that positive vibes pulsing out from training were backed up by an encouraging Walsh Cup performance against Kilkenny. "I've never seen so many Offaly people travel to Dublin for a National League game", says Regan. "I met the bulk of my former teammates up there".
But what's changed?
I'll tell you what's changed. We've an Offaly man who understands the core values in charge. He understands the culture, the ethic, and the demands the supporters have. That's not necessarily trophies, but 'if you give us everything you have, we'll back you 100% and flock to your games'.
That's always been the case for hurling and football. What's happened since Joe Dooley left is we've had a succession of outside managers who, in my view, have come in to Offaly and looked at some of the names from outside - Brian Carroll, Joe Bergin - and thought 'wow, that's as good as anything in the country, with a few extra guys around them, I can make these guys really competitive'.
When they realised that perhaps these lads can't be fully competitive, I would argue that there own personal ambitions came to the fore. By that, they went very defensive, and set up to stop us hemorrhaging heavy defeats.
That's why, in my view, Eamonn Kelly left Offaly, although there may have been other issues. Certainly when he deployed two sweepers and deployed our two wing-forwards playing in front of the full-back lines against Waterford.
It was horrific, horrendous to look at. You could see they hadn't been coached for this, and they didn't know how to use them to create overlaps and keep the ball. They just hit the ball aimlessly up the pitch.
To me it was a case of 'if I a going to manage someone else down the line, it won't do my reputation any good to lose by 20, or 25 points'.
Kevin Martin is an Offaly man who came in and threw that out the window straight away. He said this isn't about me, it isn't about my ego, it's not about how I can go forward. He is a slave to Offaly hurling, and loves Offaly hurling. He feels its a debt he owes to his county, and he won't set up in that ridiculous manner.
He is bloody well ruthless as well. If you get a bunch of players with a weak manager, they'll play on it. All players want to win things, and they all want brilliant, ruthless managers with whom to achieve it.
But if you give players a weak manager, they'll play on it.
Regan did urge some caution, and not to get too carried away with a single victory, but at the same time acknowledged the shot in the arm that has been delivered to Offaly hurling, reckoning that another 800 to the gate at O'Connor Park for Sunday's visit of Limerick.
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