Offaly's Regan ready for the fray

 

WHEN someone of Daithi, Regan's dimensions starts to, experience chest pains during, stamina training, all sorts of grim prognoses do the rounds. Reality intervened however, with the news that the Offaly midfielder's ailment was no more serious albeit no less painful than breathing difficulties brought on by a rib injury.

That was three weeks ago and already he's back on the panel with a bit of practice under his belt. He starts on the bench for Sunday's League quarter final against Wexford.

"I played for the club at the weekend," he says, and trained on Tuesday. Training's going very well, things have picked up since the Kerry game, there's a bite back. We're hoping to beat Wexford and have another go at, Galway.

The "god at Galway" is one of the potentially interesting angles for the semi-finals. Having weathered an extraordinary beating in Ballinasloe last February, Offaly are looking forward to the earliest possible opportunity of redeeming themselves. "We won't be beaten by 27 points any.way," Regan says.

For most observers, Offalys main requirement is for a few new players to spice up the panel. Regan is aware of this but also of the limitations governing such attempts.

"We've had fellas coming in and tried out various players because of all the injuries we had. Over the last four or five weeks' we've had a full panel training and the likes of Johnny and Billy Dooley coming back.

"There's been players on the fringe that have come through in the past, like Pat O'Connor. You need a couple every year. We're not going to get an influx we're not totally overburdened with top quality players."

Last year, Offaly took their leave of the League at semi final stage in a strange match against Kilkenny which was decided by four goals, three scored by DJ Carey. At the time, it looked a psychological blow for the winners.

"Offaly took more from last year than Kilkenny," says Regan. "We played alright but Kilkenny got goals. We always knew about. DJ so there was nothing new in that. Kevin Kinihan's sister had had an accident which people didn't know about at the time. We spoke about it (the result). afterwards and felt happy, enough."

Five years ago, Regan was on the only Offaly team to win a Hurling League. In retrospect, it is seen as a setback because it gave a young team notions about themselves at too young an age. Within six weeks, they had been beaten by Dublin in the championship.

"Your season's judged on the championship. I wouldn't like to win the League and get beaten in a Leinster semi final (as in 91). That's failure in Offaly you're judged on winning All Irelands."

This makes last year a big disappointment? "I've looked at it, (video of the All Ireland defeat by Clare) twice. Our defence was very good, our forwards very. poor. Their defence was good too, but their forwards worked harder.. They knew what they were doing. Whelehan got hit three times at the start and they were switching" players onto him they'd done their homework. I still firmly believe we should have won but we didn't.

Meanwhile, with the Railway Cup football final to be decided, on Sunday, the weekend is a wistful one for Brian McEniff, whose Ulster team came unstuck in pursuit of their seventh successive title. He has yet to make a decision on his future as manager of the province he has looked after for 12 years.

"A lot of Ulster players' appetite wasn't there. If I decide to stay on it will be because, I want the challenge of rebuilding a team to go on and win it again in a few years. At the moment I can't say. We'll wait till September and see if the appetite's still there."

In relation to the final, he has a preference for the team that deposed them. "If Munster play with the same commitment, they'll be hard to beat, although Leinster have some fine players. Munster deserved the win against. .us both days and I'd like to see them win it because of the work they've put into it.

"Had we played the match back in January, we would have won. We were up for it, there was a buzz. By the time we played, that was gone and the Ulster teams lad gone into stamina training.

Nicky English is named on the Tipperary team for the first, time in 10 months for the challenge match with Galway on Sunday evening. English has been dogged by injury in recent times' and hasn't played for the county since the narrow defeat by Limerick in last June's Munster semifinal.