UíbhFhailí.com header image

[ Back to Articles Index ]

Nolan relishes Offaly role

by Sean Moran was published in the Irish Times on Saturday the 22nd of January 2000

Tomorrow's O'Byrne Cup semi-finals in Leinster are comparatively celebrity-free. Of the four teams, only Offaly - who face Longford - have achieved any senior success in recent times and under new manager Padraig Nolan, they have reached a crossroads in their development.

Having enjoyed a great deal of success under the management of Tommy Lyons, with Leinster and National Football League titles in 1997 and '98 respectively, the county must now recover after a disappointing 1999 which saw them relegated to Division Two and comprehensively beaten in the championship by Meath for the second successive year.

Nolan was in some ways a surprise choice for the job. Like Lyons, he had no inter-county experience but unlike his predecessor, didn't come from a high-profile club background. He was involved with the successful St Patrick's Navan teams of the early 1990s but has since moved job to the vocational school in Naas.

A comparatively young appointment at 35, Nolan is from Kilcock and played for Kildare at the end of the 1980s, a career which included one historic achievement. "I was on the Kildare team which lost to Kilkenny in the O'Byrne Cup," he says. "There were about 10 people at the match and four paragraphs in the Independent the next day. Unfortunately I scored a point so there was no denying I played in it. I got a lot of phone calls that day."

He is upbeat about the challenge of getting Offaly back on track. "It's a privilege to be involved at this level, the sort of opportunity you'd have to take. The players have been really excellent. The advantage of coming in after Tommy Lyons is that he had left a very good set-up and players are used to doing things properly.

"Our aim is to get promoted from Division Two and the Westmeath match (the resumption of the League campaign next month) is our most important in the immediate future but the O'Byrne Cup's great for giving a team a few matches in a competitive environment."

So far he has adopted a low profile and professes himself a bit baffled at the publicity attracted by managers but accepts that it's part of the territory he now inhabits.

"The game is about players and I know that from talking to players in Meath (he has worked with Dunderry) where they're used to the spotlight, in the space of two or three years the hype has increased so much."

Nolan is troubled by injury concerns with International Rules player John Kenny due to see medical specialist and former Meath All-Ireland winner Gerry McEntee about a groin problem for which an operation may be necessary. This would keep him out for a few months. Pascal Kelleghan is also out for a few weeks with a hamstring pull and dual player Killian Farrell has just had a pin inserted in his wrist and won't be back for six weeks.

The other O'Byrne Cup semi-final in Portlaoise sees Westmeath, conquerors of under-strength Meath last week, travel to face Laois who have beaten them in the last two Leinster championships.

[ Back to Articles Index ]