With so much written about the Offaly hurlers in recent weeks, their Leinster SFC opener with Longford seemed to appear out of the blue. What also came out of nowhere was the result – and the performance.
For Pat Flanagan’s side, it was an end to nine years without a win in the provincial championship. That is hard to comprehend in a Leinster Championship that has been rather poor in recent years. Now that they have had that winning feeling, can they push on?
They face Westmeath in the last eight. With the Faithful’s humiliating 14-point defeat to the Lake County in the Leinster SHC a fresh memory for Offaly people, the county will be out for revenge. Despite, losing to Westmeath 1-9 to 0-9 in the League, the final Division 3 standings would suggest that this is a game that Flanagan’s men should win.
It is ironic that the county which caused such an uproar and call for change in one code, will also be the opponents as Offaly re-awaken their love for the big ball game. With Dublin in the other half of the draw, Offaly supporters can begin to dream a bit.
While Westmeath, Wexford and Kildare will also target a Leinster final appearance, none of these teams are that daunting a prospect. Especially, now that they have the monkey of that winless run off their back, Offaly will feel confidant that they can string back-to-back performances together and perhaps have an impact on the 2016 season.
While the hurlers of the county are preparing for a win-or-bust clash with Kerry, Offaly footballers can go all out to reach the provincial semi-finals with the safety net of the qualifiers should they fall short.
Even if the back door is the route they end up taking, last Sunday’s win was much more than a victory over Longford. It was a big step in the right direction for the side from the Midlands who lay the foundation of what can be an exciting summer.
The other thing it did was give a much-needed boost to the Championship’s low-key start. There is an ever-growing voice of pundits saying the Championship only starts in August, which is unfair on counties like Offaly, who put enormous value on wins in May and June.
Look at the pictures from Tullamore on Sunday and tell me that wasn’t Championship, say it didn’t mean anything because Dublin are too good.
It meant a hell of a lot to Offaly, who can now dare to dream about their summer prospects.