Ollie Baker hopes Offaly can embrace mixed luck of the draw against Waterford
Manager wanted a home tie but has to face Division One opposition
Ollie Baker: “We have to beat one of the top six teams in the country. ” Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Sometimes the most important thing in hurling, as in life, is being careful what you wish for. In the immediate aftermath of Offaly’s brave, although ultimately vanquished effort against Kilkenny in the Leinster quarter-final, manager Ollie Baker wished out loud the draw for the qualifier series would grant his side home advantage.
“It would make such a huge difference, to have a home crowd behind you and shouting you on, having that 16th man,” said Baker, standing in the gleaming sunshine of Tullamore, acutely aware of how home advantage had helped rally the spirits against Kilkenny last Sunday week.
Abracadabra, less than 24 hours later, the draw taking place the following morning, Offaly were the very first name out of the hat, and with that assured of home advantage over whoever came out next.
Baker was no doubt still in the process of thanking his lucky stars when the next name out of the hat was announced as Waterford, the only Division 1A team in the first phase of the qualifiers, and unquestionably the most difficult challenge possible for Offaly.
So, despite having home advantage again in Tullamore tomorrow evening (with a 7pm start), Offaly can’t afford to let slip the impressive momentum gained against Kilkenny – a game book-ended by Offaly goals, two at the beginning and two at the end, in the 0-26 to 4-9 defeat.
Third ever meeting
It’s only the third ever championship meeting between the counties: Waterford have won the previous two, both also in the qualifier stages, the first in 2005, winning by nine points, and again in 2008, winning by six points.
Baker hasn’t disguised his intention to seek out the similar goal-scoring tactics that very nearly brought down Kilkenny (they were up 2-6 to 0-11 at half-time):
“I think, moving forward, the guys we have inside in our full-forward line are goal scorers,” he said.
“I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be going for goals every time you go in. Goals win matches, as they say. Four goals gives you 12 points, you’d want an awful lot of accurate shooting if you were going to get 12 points against Kilkenny, if you kept on going for it.”
Joe Bergin hit the net twice, Dan Currams and Colin Egan once each, and although Waterford will be equally keen to rebound from the Munster quarter-final defeat to Clare, again having been up at half-time, by four points, Baker believes his players are ready to embrace the mixed luck of the draw.
“If we want to be noted in the hurling world again, we have to beat one of the top six teams in the country. That’s the challenge out there.”