Michael Fennelly said he never questioned his ability to manage Offaly and "knew in my heart and soul" he was doing things correctly despite a disastrous 2020.
The Kilkenny great couldn't prevent Offaly slumping to a shock Christy Ring Cup semi-final defeat to Down in his first season in charge.
That followed their earlier failure to secure promotion from Division 2A of the league but they were vastly improved on both fronts in 2021, winning all eight competitive games they played.
They beat mostly Joe McDonagh Cup opposition in the league and blitzed all comers in the Ring Cup, beating Sligo by 22 points, Wicklow by 37, and then Derry by 21.
The 41-point haul was a Ring Cup record with free-taker Eoghan Cahill registering 0-13 and forward colleagues John Murphy and Oisin Kelly contributing a dozen points from play between them.
Offaly are clearly ready for the step up and while Fennelly said "we're not back at the top table", he also insisted that he never panicked about his own managerial ability.
"I came away after the Down game that we lost last year and I said, 'We're doing things right'," said Fennelly. "I knew in my heart and soul that we were. Following your gut is a key thing to think about when you're a manager and I've learned that over the last few years.
"In one sense, it could have all been a good thing. I think some players moved on, the management and backroom became more hungry to improve. The players became more hungry and I think we really gelled a bit more collectively as a group this year. So maybe it was a good thing."
Gerald Bradley and Odhran McKeever struck Derry goals but they were largely overwhelmed and lost Brian Cassidy to two late bookings.
E Cahill (0-13, 9 frees); O Kelly (0-7); J Murphy (0-5); D Treacy (0-3); L Fox, L O'Connor, S Dooley (2 frees), S Kinsella (0-2 each); B Conneely, K Sampson, J Sampson, L Langton, D Egan (0-1 each).
C O'Doherty (0-5, 5 frees); G Bradley, O McKeever (1-1); B Cassidy (0-3); S Cassidy (0-2); D Foley, R Mullan (0-1).
C Clancy; D King, C Burke, P Delaney; A Treacy, B Conneely, K Sampson; L Fox, R Ravenhill; J Sampson, L Langton, B Duignan; E Cahill, J Murphy, O Kelly.
L O'Connor for Langton (45); E Kelly for Fox (50); S Kinsella for J Sampson (55); S Dooley for Duignan (59); D Egan for Cahill (62).
O O'Doherty; M McGrath, D McCloskey, S Cassidy; B McGilligan, R Mullan, J Mullan; E Cassidy, C O'Doherty; M McGuigan, G Bradley, D Foley; B Cassidy, S McGuigan, O McKeever.
S Cassidy for S McGuigan (46); P Nelis for E Cassidy (50); B Laverty for Foley (62); R McWilliams for McCloskey (66).
T Gleeson (Dublin).