Ruairi McNamee: ‘Our lads love a challenge’
By Cian O’Connell
A first EirGrid Leinster Under 21 Championship Final appearance in 10 years ensures hope and a small bit of expectation are attached to this emerging crop of Offaly footballers.
Improvements have been made at Post Primary level so the Faithful now want to deliver on the provincial stage in Wednesday’s decider against Dublin.
Ruairi McNamee, already an established figure with Rhode - the dominant club in the county – is adamant that Offaly have the talent to develop further.
“Yeah, personally I think there is plenty of good footballers in Offaly,” McNamee says. “It is all about getting the right set-up for the players themselves. This year we've been looked after fierce well.
“We had Dave Hare doing our strength and conditioning, we didn't really have a pre-season ourselves, he is after cramming a lot of work into nine or 10 weeks. Look, we all feel as fit as any other team out there which is great credit to him and to our own set-up.”
McNamee is delighted by the manner in which Offaly have generated belief and momentum. "Yeah, definitely, it is the first time back there for Offaly in 10 years. I think we deserve it, we are back here on merit so we are all looking forward to next Wednesday.
“Being honest about it, we definitely saw we were on the easier side of the draw when the teams came out.
"They are an absolutely star studded team, but our lads love a challenge. They won't be shy in going toe to toe with them, we will put a plan in place, you'd never know what could happen."
“We said to ourselves after our first couple of trainings when the team got together that there was a serious chance for us to get to a Leinster Final. It is the first time in a while that we got back to back wins with the Under 21s.”
Offaly’s deep tradition should always count for something too according to McNamee. “If you chat to any of the older generation in Offaly, they base the county on tradition,” McNamee states.
“I think it is important that it follows through to us and for us to take the culture onboard. I think Offaly, no matter what team it is, will be a hard working team, an honest team. I think that is what we are basing ourselves on as well.”
It has been a hectic spell for McNamee, who played in Decemeber’s AIB Leinster Club Final for Rhode against St Vincent’s. “Yeah, the Leinster Final last year was on December 11, I took three weeks off over Christmas and went straight back in with the Under 21s to get ready for the Hastings Cup,” McNamee explains.
“I think it was time for me to go back, if you stay off any longer you lose out on training and matches. It was a welcome break, but I was happy enough to go back in.”
Dublin will bring a talented team to O’Moore Park on Wednesday, including the exciting Con O’Callaghan, but this is exactly the type of environment Offaly’s youngsters will relish to test their progress.
“Definitely, if you are going to win a Leinster Championship you are probably going to have to beat Dublin,” is McNamee’s assessment. “They are an absolutely star studded team, but our lads love a challenge. They won't be shy in going toe to toe with them, we will put a plan in place, you'd never know what could happen.”