Pat Flanagan firmly focused on Offaly’s promotion drive

Faithful County looking to escape from a fiercely competitive Division Three

Pat Flanagan: determined to lead his native Offaly to higher ground: “I’ve always said Offaly have serious potential.”  Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Pat Flanagan: determined to lead his native Offaly to higher ground: “I’ve always said Offaly have serious potential.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 
“I like to set out my stall at the start of every campaign and Offaly’s ambition is promotion, absolutely,” says Pat Flanagan – before promptly adding that it’s not going to be easy.

Indeed it won’t: it’s arguably the most competitive Division Three of the Allianz Football League in recent years, with Kildare, Westmeath, Longford, Tipperary, Sligo, Limerick and Clare also vying for the two promotional spots. Any two of them could secure promotion.

“It’s certainly going to be a very, very tough division, especially with so many local derbies as well,” adds Flanagan, who last year took charge of his native Offaly and guided them to promotion from Division Four (with Longford).

Now he intends on doing the same again – seeing no reason why Offaly can’t maintain their rise through the ranks: “Of course we’re being realistic about it too. But I said going into last year after I got the job that my aim was to get Offaly back up to Division Two after two years. And if we maintain the focus t we showed last year then that is possible.

Highest level

“And any team I’m involved with, I aspire to the highest level possible. People said it would be a fairytale to take Westmeath from Division Three to Division One in three seasons, and we did that.

“I’ve always said Offaly have serious potential, have real quality within the team, and I think all the vital organs are there for further development over the next few years and I’d be hopeful we can maintain the stability . . .”

That campaign starts at home on Sunday when Longford visit Tullamore, having already made the final of the O’Byrne Cup (beating Dublin on route). That’s followed on Sunday week with the meeting of Kildare, who just two years ago were plying their trade in Division One.

“No one would have expected Kildare to be in this division, after coming down from Division One, two years ago. To plummet two divisions like that. So they will be very keen to get back up. They would be the favourites, in my opinion.

“Tipp have also made fabulous progress in recent years. So there are a lot of teams looking to get across that line. We know we have to be at our best in every game, not just to press for promotion, but to make sure we maintain our status, at the very least.”

Offaly also have four of their seven games are on the road: “Yeah, we got the short straw from that point of view. That makes it more difficult again. We’ll be keen to pick up two points on Sunday, because then it’s Kildare the following Sunday. That’s a tough start.”

Two notable additions to his panel this year are Shane Dooley and Joey O’Connor, who intend to play both hurling and football this season.

“ I suppose Shane and Joey both have aspirations for playing for both teams. I’ll certainly give them every opportunity, but it will be very difficult, especially when it comes to those weekends when both Offaly footballers and hurlers are out.

“And I would be a little concerned about how it might affect them later on in the year. But again I said I’d give them the chance, and hopefully it will work out for them.

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