Joachim Kelly: Spirit the key to lifting fallen Faithfuls

Interim Offaly hurling manager Joachim Kelly has claimed the players threw in the towel in recent weeks, leading to their present difficulties.

Joachim Kelly: Spirit the key to lifting fallen Faithfuls

Interim Offaly hurling manager Joachim Kelly has claimed the players threw in the towel in recent weeks, leading to their present difficulties.

The once mighty Faithful County, All-Ireland champions in 1998 and finalists in 2000, are in danger of being relegated to the Christy Ring Cup, the third tier of championship hurling.

They lost their opening two Joe McDonagh Cup games, to Laois and Westmeath, and county officials responded by sacking manager Kevin Martin and replacing him with Kelly.

Offaly return to action Saturday against Antrim in Tullamore and conclude their campaign with a trip to Kerry — two games they feel they must win.

Kelly told Midlands 103 radio that he spoke with some fans in recent weeks who said “they’d never follow us again” after witnessing the defeats.

“These are an honest bunch of fellas, I knew that all along, for whatever reason...look, they threw in the towel in the last few weeks and that doesn’t work with me, throwing in the towel, so that’s what we’ve got to try to resurrect,” said Kelly.

“Sure everyone is giving out around the county. It’s ‘Get rid of the county board, underage is terrible, not enough done in schools, we have no hurlers, the county team is going terrible’.

We can blame and blame and blame but players have to look into their own heads, management have to look inwards as well and pick the right teams. It’s down to players and management.

"There’s 40 in that dressing room between management and players.

"We’ve got to turn it around and we’ll do our bloody utmost over the next three weeks to try to turn it.”

Kelly believes Offaly supporters who have grown disillusioned with the team can still be won over with a show of heart and determination.

“If they come, if they come and support us, and we go out and play with pride and spirit and heart in that Offaly jersey, for the whole 70 minutes, and if we lose I’d say they’d go out of there happy that we burst our backsides for that 70 minutes,” said Kelly.

“If we win, it’s a bonus, it’s great, but we’ll try to bring that spirit back and get Offaly people following us again and believing in us. We have to believe in ourselves first.”

Offaly are currently bottom of the McDonagh Cup group after two defeats with Eddie Brennan’s Laois top on four points.

“At the moment we’re fighting to avoid relegation but we’re also fighting to stay in the Joe McDonagh Cup and we’re also fighting to maybe end up in an All-Ireland quarter-final if results go our way, so there’s a lot to play for yet,” said Kelly.

Meanwhile Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan is taking encouragement from the fact that they remain unbeaten in Leinster, despite the team turning in below-par displays in both of their opening championship games.

The Tribesmen were fortunate to earn a share of the spoils at home to Wexford on Sunday, their play noticeably devoid of rhythm and fluency, particularly during a second half where they managed a meagre two points from play and went 17 minutes without raising a flag of any description.

The 2015 All-Star goalkeeper commended his teammates for ensuring defeat was staved off in the face of Wexford’s late surge for the line.

Callanan was the Galway hero as his 72nd-minute save to keep out Cathal Dunbar’s shot preventing a Model County win.

Having failed to take the maximum four points from their two home games, which was Galway’s target, Callanan has described their trip to Nowlan Park, on June 9, as a “massive” fixture.

“It took an awful lot of battling spirit there to just get away with the draw.

"We were facing into a mammoth breeze in the second half and when the game was so tight at the very end, any little slip-up and you are done.

"We’ll take what we have and move on. We have Kilkenny in two weeks and it’s a massive one.

“The result here probably would have been done and dusted [had Wexford converted that injury-time goal chance].

"They won possession and had a man over, so straight away I knew we were going to be in trouble if the pass came off. It did.

"But I was just delighted to keep it out. I thought, maybe, we would work another chance and get a winner, but we’ll have to make do with the draw.”

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