John Maughan could only look on as Derry wreaked havoc in the final quarter.
John Maughan could only look on as Derry wreaked havoc in the final quarter. 

Maughan: 'No regrets' about playing league final

By Kevin Egan

Offaly manager John Maughan had no regrets about the county’s decision to play tonight’s Division Three final against Derry, despite the fact that the Faithful County suffered a chastening defeat at the hands of the Oak Leaf county at Croke Park.

A 12-point defeat, with Derry controlling every sector of the field, will cause a lot of consternation in the Offaly camp with their Leinster championship opener against Louth just a week away, but Maughan took the view that the standard of the opposition was far better than what they would normally expect in Division Three.

“It’s always a great experience to play in Croke Park and for our boys here, for many of them it was their first time, albeit a rather ugly defeat” he said after the game.

“Nonetheless we always felt it would be good preparation going into the Louth championship game. They’re a little bit despondent, heads are down a little bit in the dressing-room, but they’ll be fine. That was a bonus game for us, we didn’t anticipate it would go ahead this day last week so they were excited last Sunday morning when I told them the game was going ahead. So I have no regrets whatsoever”.

With so many problem areas, Maughan didn’t pinpoint any one sector as the key factor in their downfall.

“We struggled all over the pitch, to be quite honest with you. Derry are very formidable. They are way advanced in their experience, expertise, the physicality of their midfield, they have a lot of top class performers.

“It’s hard to comprehend that they were a Division 3 side, to be quite honest. That probably deserves an explanation in itself. We were outclassed for periods and we were just hanging in there. Unfortunately we ran out of a little bit of steam going down the last quarter, against a very good side. Derry were full value for their 12 point victory”.

It’ll be a short turnaround for the Faithful County, who will again travel east next weekend – this time to Páirc Tailteann in Navan. Louth will also be on a high after winning promotion, and Maughan has been watching the Wee County develop under the guidance of Mickey Harte.

“I’ve already watched their game against Antrim, the only game they lost in the League. They secured a big result against Carlow to get promoted.

“Mickey Harte’s arrival, obviously they got a good bounce out of that and we know how difficult they will be. They’re a big team as well. They have a lot of big units around the place. Against Sligo they banged in three goals in a five-minute spell, but look, it’s something to look forward to”.

One silver lining was the form of Niall McNamee, who made his 150th appearance in league and championship football for the county. The Rhode veteran has been used sparingly during the league, but an early injury to Bernard Allen forced him into the fray late in the first half. After playing a key role in Offaly’s goal, he also made a superb offensive mark catch in the second half, when it looked as if the midlanders might be about to rally.

“We are very conscious of minding him. He is a jewel of a player” said Maughan.

“He caused consternation there for periods when we got ball into him. I saw Niall McNamee playing he was 19 or 20 with Rhode, watching him play in Leinster club championships and he is a top class operator, very, very good. We didn’t necessarily want to mind him. In fact, we were thinking about starting him”.

Expect McNamee to feature strongly in Maughan’s plans as Offaly try to pick up the pieces over the next week, with a view to extending their season beyond next Sunday afternoon.