New Offaly hurling manager Kevin Martin has admitted his players’ confidence needs to be rebuilt after a disastrous few years and several ‘thrashings’.
Martin played a key role in Offaly teams that won All-Irelands in 1994 and 1998 but the Faithful County are currently ranked 500/1 also-rans for the 2018 title.
A top-three finish in the new look Leinster championship to prolong their summer campaign beyond June 3 is a clear target but looks a long shot. Even staying in Division 1B of the league is far from guaranteed, having finished joint bottom of the 2017 table and avoiding a relegation play-off on scoring difference.
It’s a far cry from the glory days of the 1990s and there’s been upheaval off the field too with boardroom squabbling and a merry-go-round of managers.
Asked about rebuilding shattered confidence, Martin admitted: “Yeah, that’s one of the major things. We’re after getting a few thrashings over the last couple of years — and especially last year just gone.
“I mean, I believe myself they’re not as bad as they’ve shown the last couple of years. It’s like everything else, it’s all about confidence so you’ve to build their confidence up and get them going again. Mentally, that’s half the battle. So we’ll have to work on that big time.”
Martin, who made 74 league and championship appearances for Offaly and won two All-Stars, was critical of the team himself in recent seasons.
That’s when friends and family put it up to the former Westmeath, Tullamore, and Clough-Ballacolla manager to put up or shut up.
“I suppose we’re all guilty of giving out about our own county team, and I would have been at that myself the last couple of years,” said Martin. “And people were saying, ‘Well, sure go do something about it then’. Even my own family said that.
“It’s always an honour to train your own county team. A lot of work has to be done but in fairness to the players they’re buying into it, so far, and fingers crossed, things will start looking up.”
Life in the hot-seat for Offaly’s sixth manager since 2011 begins tomorrow when Offaly visit Mullingar to take on Westmeath, whom he managed to Christy Ring success in 2010, in Group 4 of the Bord na Mona Walsh Cup.
“When you’re changing managers that often, players would be getting sick of it,” said Martin. “They want a bit of consistency and they want a bit of stability. Listen, I’ve been asked this question, ‘How long have you got?’ We haven’t really thrashed it out with the county board. We’ll see how this year goes.
“And you know, maybe the players won’t want me after this year, or maybe they will. Maybe the county won’t want me, maybe I won’t want to stay here myself. We’ll have to see. We’re going to try to work as hard as we can to improve the thing, that’s all we can do at the minute.”
Martin will be without highly rated goalkeeper James Dempsey, who has opted out. But veteran Shane Dooley has committed to another season while Kilcormac-Killoughey duo Dan Currams and Conor Mahon as well as Colin Egan and Derek Molloy will be available.
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