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Offaly manager's depressing comments are a damning reflection of a once great county

by Niall McIntyre was published in the Sports Joe.ie on Monday the 3rd of July 2017

Offaly hurling has been on its knees for the last few years, and judging by Kevin Ryan's comments after their hammering at the hands of Waterford, they only have themselves to blame. The Faithful county's hurlers have to be the greatest conundrum of a GAA team in the whole country. Up until 2008/2009, Offaly were still classed as one of the traditional hurling counties.

They may not have won an All-Ireland in ten years at that point, but even going into a game against one of the sport's top teams such as Kilkenny, Tipperary or Cork they still had a chance of pulling off an upset.

Offaly is a natural hurling county. Birr is one of Ireland's most successful hurling clubs, Kilcormac Killoughey, St. Rynaghs, Kinnitty, Coolderry, alike, these are famed hurling clubs.

These clubs have produced some of the best hurlers this country has ever seen. Birr's Brian Whelehan is one of the finest to have ever played the game, as his wing-back place on the team of the millennium suggests.

Martin Hanamy, Michael Duignan, Joachim Kelly, the famous Dooley dynasty for God's sake.

Hurling, the GAA, is a cultural game. The GAA runs in the veins of families and is passed from one generation to the next. That's why it's so hard to break into GAA's elite counties in either hurling or football. It also makes it so hard to believe just how far Offaly have fallen.

The same teams have been at the top of the hurling game for what has seemed like forever. Kilkenny are always there, Tipperary, Cork, Galway, Clare, Limerick, these counties are always there. Offaly were always there.

Some of the wristiest, most graceful and courageous hurlers to have ever played the game have emerged from the county and they're surely finding it hard to fathom the current state of Offaly hurling.

Offaly were demolished by Waterford at the weekend, losing by 24 points. It's not a shock.

While certain people within the county may still see themselves as one of those traditional hurling counties, their stock has fallen so far that they're the only ones believing it.

Offaly scraped over Westmeath this year. That's the level they are now at.

The future doesn't look much brighter, either, with their under-21's losing by fifteen points to Wexford in this year's Leinster championship.

Why is it happening? Why haven't Offaly maintained their great reputation? What are they doing wrong?

Kevin Ryan's comments after their loss to Waterford were damning, they were hard-hitting, but they give an indication as to why Offaly have fallen so far.

"We can't get 30 lads in to play a full practice game. If a lad won't commit to come into you on a Sunday morning for a training session, it is hard to get them to commit for a full year. There are some genuine reasons why lads can't commit, but there are some bullshit excuses," said the genuinely crestfallen Waterford man.

They are a county that is screaming of a lack of commitment. Hurling is unrecognisable from what it was in 1998. The levels of commitment required to succeed have raised a phenomenal amount. Offaly don't seem to have developed in line with the game in terms of commitment, in terms of dedication.

While there are some hurlers within the county who are undoubtedly leading consummate professional lives, they are being let down by their colleagues. Colleagues who won't play for their county, or who are playing for their county but aren't committing properly. It's just not right.

Ryan feels sorry for the lads who are, but there is no reason why Offaly should be lacking in fitness levels compared to those other counties. It's the base of an inter-county hurler.

"We need time to get up to the fitness and pace like we're lasting for so long with the likes of Galway, Waterford and maybe Tipperary. But then when it comes close to half time in some games it starts to hit in, I feel so sorry for the lads because beatings like that are hard for them to keep taking," said Waterford man Ryan to The Sunday Game.

Offaly's centre of excellence will be opening soon in Kilcormac, but this state-of-the-art facility won't bring Offaly hurling back where it belongs.

Offaly hurling needs to look at itself, from the county board all the way down to its players, because there's something seriously missing.

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