New Offaly hurling manager Eamonn Kelly will have to plan without experienced wing-back Cathal Parlon for 2016.
Parlon started each of Offaly’s 2014 championship games and this year’s opener with Laois before suffering a season-ending cruciate knee ligament injury. The lengthy recovery period meant he was already set to miss several months of the 2016 season and now plans to take the entire year out to travel.
Veteran forward Brian Carroll, 32, may also consider his future though attacking colleague Joe Bergin is generally optimistic about their chances under Tipperary man Kelly.
Offaly had two seasons to forget under Brian Whelahan with a Leinster championship defeat to Laois in June, relegating them to the qualifier series of next year’s provincial competition. “People looking in from the outside might disagree based on our results but I still think we have loads of good hurlers in the county,” said Bergin.
“It’s just a matter of getting the best out of them which is where we have fallen down in the last few years.
“I don’t know why that has been the case, maybe it’s down to ourselves as players, but we definitely haven’t been getting near to our potential.
“To say we’ll be All-Ireland contenders next year would be a step too far but we’re definitely capable of being much more competitive in Leinster and, really, against whoever we play.”
Tipperary native Kelly, who guided Kerry to this year’s Christy Ring Cup title, could bring Tipperary legend Brendan Cummins with him to Offaly.
Two-time All-Ireland medallist Cummins worked with Kelly in Kerry as they bounced back from their 2014 Ring Cup final loss. “Brendan Cummins is a man with some great ideas and he understands the game,” said Bergin. “He’d be a great addition if he comes along with Eamonn but I honestly have no more information on that.”
Bergin has set Offaly a target of reaching next year’s Leinster semi-finals. If they emerge from the preliminary group and win a subsequent provincial quarter-final, they will be exempt from the following season’s round-robin games. “The number one thing is to become competitive again and just to get the most out of our team because we haven’t been doing that,” said Bergin.
“Definitely within that, the aim would be to get to a Leinster semi-final, that has to be a big aim of ours.”
Kelly is currently out of the country and hasn’t yet met with his inherited Offaly panel. “I cover the Tipperary area in my job and a lot of people have said very positive things about Eamonn,” said Bergin. “Brian Whelahan was massively respected in Offaly but maybe it was time to freshen things up. The general word among the players is that they can’t wait to meet him and get going again.”
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