Originally Posted by Alf Veedersane
Offaly conceding massive scores. Better than the last few weeks today but not good enough.
The first 20 years of my life, there were only 4 Leinster finals Offaly didn't contest. Minor AI in 89. The magic of 94, going close in 95 and then winning again in 98.
I never imagined we'd fall so far. Lost for words.
In the first 20 years of my life Offaly never got to a Leinster final, or even a semi-final as far as I know. Offaly punched away above their weight 1980-2000, and what they achieved was utterly unprecedented by a county with about seven senior clubs. It was never going to last.
In the early 1960s the GAA set up a commission to report on hurling development in the weaker counties. They classed nine counties as strong and seven more as intermediate. The remainder were dubbed "the great wasteland" by the late Paddy Downey. The seven intermediate counties were Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, Carlow, Meath, Antrim and Kerry. I use the term intermediate because I can't remember the exact term. Of the remainder four were consistently stronger than the others, namely Kildare, Down, Roscommon and Wicklow.
People decrying Offaly's fall don't seem to fully realise that where they are now is near to their traditional and natural state, perhaps a little worse. They did well in the 1920s appearing in three Leinster finals and winning a few All-Ireland junior titles when that was a strong competition. Up to then they had played just one Leinster final. They then fell away for about 30 years, consistently overshadowed by Westmeath and Laois in particular. Laois were always able to master them. And they struggled to beat Kerry and Antrim.
The first time they attracted notice was in the mid sixties. Michael O'Hehir waxed lyrical about their performance in beating Kerry in the 1966 division two NHL final. In 1969 they shocked all of Ireland by dethroning All-Ireland champions Wexford and losing by two points to Kilkenny in the Leinster final. They moved onwards and upwards from there, with a few minor hiccups in the seventies until they eventually triumphed. But the 20 years of glory were the blip, not the present time.
Will Offaly ever return to glory? I think they will definitely return to dominating the Antrims and the Kerrys, but win Liam McCarthy? Not in my lifetime, maybe in yours but I doubt it. Offaly have little to sustain them now other than the tradition which they created in the good times. At the best of times such a county might produce a good crop once in 40 years., and then they must be handled properly and in addition must be lucky. Add to that the way in which the game has become almost professional with military style boot camp training, and the dominance of commerce.I fear not just for the Offalys but for the very inter-county traditional structure.
Other counties came close to breaking through, Kildare in the 70s, Westmeath in the 80s, Antrim 1985-1995. Difficult to see it happening now.
Laois could be said to have suffered a similar fate to Offaly. The NHL began in 1926 with seven counties, including Laois but excluding Clare and Waterford. Laois were serious contenders until about 1960, though not as consistent or as successful as Offaly.