Flanagan faces a testing few months as he bids to end the impasse which has prevailed in Offaly for the last three seasons regarding a number of key players who aren’t available for selection.
Sean Pender, the captain of new county champions Edenderry, Richie Dalton, his club mate, and Ross Brady of Clara haven’t played for Offaly since early 2013 due to a falling out with former boss Emmet McDonnell. Flanagan identified a fourth player, midfielder Brian Connor, who played for New York in this year’s Championship, as a top target also, suggesting Offaly will be much improved if they all return.
In fact, ex-Sligo and Westmeath boss Flanagan tipped the Faithful to go right “to the top” and challenge Dublin, the Leinster and All-Ireland holders.
“If we encourage Brian and other players to come back into this county, I honestly believe that we can go very, very quickly to the top,” said Flanagan. “We have done it in the past and we can certainly do it again in the future.
“There are young people out there and I’ve seen guys in Offaly who have put in serious effort this year and they want to get to a different level and they know that they can.
“I believe personally that this is a very proud county with tradition and that makes a lot of difference, we have the tradition here, and I certainly believe that over the course of a couple of years, if we could get all our players to work together, and if we can get the backing of our county board, we can certainly come up in the next three or four years to at least compete with Dublin at that level.” Flanagan may also consider accommodating dual players next season in a bid to get all of his best players available. Discussions have already taken place on the subject between Flanagan and Eamonn Kelly, the new hurling manager.
“Basically, Offaly need every player they can get,” said Flanagan. “There are a number of dual players in the county. But it is difficult at this moment in time for young players to compete at both levels. But I wouldn’t rule it out. As I say, Offaly in both codes need everyone that’s available to them but whether it’s feasible or not, we just have to test it out and see what happens.”