As the music boomed out of the victorious Longford dressing room Jack Sheedy beamed, while across the tunnel Pat Flanagan struggled to get the words out through the anguish of defeat.
Flanagan had returned to his native county after stints in Westmeath and Sligo, with the sole target of helping Offaly win championship games again. He’ll hardly have gone through a more heartbreaking loss.
We were left waiting for the Offaly boss as he conduced an investigation with his players, where he asked them what they want from this year’s qualifiers.
Without a win in eight championship games they need any sort of victory, but the redevelopment work starts today in terms of next year’s Leinster championship.
“It is bitterly disappointing and there is no point in saying any different,” said Flanagan.
“We thought we were progressing well after the league final performance. We felt we were on the right road. But it proved we were mentally still that bit weak because when the pressure came on we crumbled.
“There is no point in saying any different, we weren’t prepared for it. They had a gameplan, they came and they intimidated us in the first 15 or 20 minutes and we found it very hard to get used to that.
“When our backs were to the wall we started going back playing ball across the field and playing it behind us instead of coming forward. We started making wrong decisions, it is all a learning phase and we need to learn very quickly. As I said to the boys the 2016 Leinster championship starts today.”
Longford trailed 0-12 to 0-5 after 11 minutes of the second-half, but with the wind they managed to regain their composure after 25 minutes without a point.
Sheedy was delighted with the comeback instigated by his substitutes who kicked five of their points.
“It was a fantastic comeback, the lads worked very hard. We spoke in the three weeks since the league final that no matter what the result was when we came off the pitch, that we’d leave everything out there.
“They worked so hard and that was the key to it. Offaly were so good, so dangerous. We worked as hard as Offaly did in Croke Park but we got our rewards today, they got theirs the last day.
“It’s so close, there’s nothing between us. Offaly are a super team, but we had to be close to our best to beat them. The determination, the will to win, to fight, to work hard, was tremendous. I couldn’t have asked any more of them.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved