Kelly pays tribute to Faithful old guard

June 10, 2024

Offaly captain Jason Sampson lifts the Joe McDonagh Cup ©INPHO/James Crombie

Offaly hurling manager Johnny Kelly heaped praise on his veteran stars after Saturday’s thrilling Joe McDonagh Cup final victory over Laois.

The Faithful will return to the Leinster SHC in 2025 after seven years in the second and third tiers, the low point of which was a Christy Ring Cup semi-final defeat to Down following a penalty shootout in 2020. Goals from Brain Duignan and towering substitute Oisín Kelly proved decisive as Kelly’s men exorcised the ghosts of last year’s extra-time loss to Carlow and set up an All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final meeting with Cork in Glenisk O’Connor Park next Saturday.

After a week when Offaly’s All-Ireland U20 champions grabbed all the headlines, Kelly was eager to make sure the contribution of the old guard wasn’t overlooked after the 2-23 to 0-26 win at Croke Park.

“I have to talk about the Ben Conneelys, the David Kings, Jason Sampson, Cillian Kiely, and I’m leaving out a couple of guys there. These guys have soldiered down through the years, they’ve been to places all over the country. What they’ve done for Offaly today has been outstanding, and not just today,” the Portumna man told the assembled media.

“It’s been over the last number of years, it’s not easy to keep coming back in every October in the mud, the wind and the rain and face into another challenge. For that alone, I’m entirely grateful to the effort they put in, and how they supported me over the last two years.

“I’m just happy for the older guys who went to Ballycran, who went to Castlebar, and to previous management teams who put their shoulder to the wheel and it didn’t work out. It’s been a long, hard road, but I hope the journey is only beginning.

“It was hugely important for Offaly that we put back-to-back wins together. Obviously, the U20s was a brilliant win last weekend, but to do the senior today has copper-fastened everything that everyone is doing in Offaly over the last two, three years, and maybe before that. Everyone in Offaly needs to take a bow today”.

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