Kevin Ryan is aiming to “stabilise” the Offaly senior hurling team as he prepares for a “huge challenge” in the Faithful County.
Ryan will be ratified as Eamonn Kelly’s successor at Tuesday’s county board meeting and the Waterford native is calling for commitment from all Offaly hurling stakeholders as he looks ahead to his first season at the helm.
Ryan has enjoyed a considerable degree of success in recent years, serving as a Waterford senior team selector, masterminding county title wins for home club Mount Sion and Wexford’s Oulart-the-Ballagh, as well as Christy Ring Cup glory with Carlow in 2012.
During his time in charge of the Antrim hurlers, he guided their U21s to a Bord Gáis Energy final appearance in 2013, when they stunned Wexford at the semi-final stage before losing heavily to a star-studded Clare outfit.
Ryan is viewing the Offaly job as a big step forward in his managerial career, but is making no bold statements about what can be achieved, insisting that consolidation in Division 1B of the Allianz League next year would be acceptable.
Ryan said: “The reality is that they’ve been hanging in there in 1B for the last year or two, that’s the bottom line.
“To me, if you could stabilise it and if you were competing at the top end of 1B for a while, rather than trying to survive at the end of it, that would be a good start. Obviously, that’s just short term.
“It’s a big job, a lot of work to be done, obviously, a huge challenge.
“Traditionally, we know where Offaly were and hopefully could be again but I think there’s a lot of stabilising to do.
“I know Eamonn did some good work there last year, a few good things going but it needs a massive transformation from every quarter.
“To me, it’s a case of everybody putting their shoulder to the wheel. If you get that, you have some chance.
“There are players as good in Offaly as most of the surrounding counties but it’s just that thing to gel it all together.
“There are some very good people involved and going to be involved there.
“If we can paint that vision for them and get everybody, not just players, on board with it…the officers I’ve spoken with are certainly very ambitious and if I can get the whole backroom team, players, and the general public to come some way along with that, I’d give them a chance.”
In recent times, a number of Offaly players haven’t committed to the cause for various reasons but Ryan insists that he will speak to anybody interested in putting themselves forward for selection.
He added: “It’s no different to any other (team), people with different issues. Anyone that’s good enough will get a chance. It’s up to them obviously but I would hope to get all the better players in. But I still say, no matter what way it is, the better players have to be willing to commit. If you haven’t that commitment or desire, you’re not going to make it anyway.
“As I always say, 15 super hurlers won’t win a game for you but 15 serious, hard, committed fellas will have a better chance.
“It would be great to have what look the better hurlers but everybody will get a chance. I’ll talk to anybody — obviously a new brush sweeps clean and whoever is pointed out to me, I’ll speak to.”
Ryan has confirmed the addition of Paul Flynn as one of his coaches, with further additions to follow “within the next week”. He said: “If you look at the number of counties in the country that say they’re underachieving, there needs to be a reality check.
“Tradition is a great thing but it doesn’t mean that your present set-up is as good as what was there 30 years ago.
“It’s 10 years since our own club (Mount Sion) won a county title, when we were winning them for fun.
“Numbers dwindle, different things happen, maybe the eye goes off the ball and apathy develops. Maybe it’s just to get to the heart of it all. Everybody can’t be in the top two or three but obviously our long-term ambition is no different than any other county, to get back to that level.”
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