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'The tears were flowing down his face' | Michael Duignan on Offaly's rising

Offaly county board chairman Michael Duignan says pride has been restored to their jersey, follow...
Neil Treacy
Neil Treacy

20.38 18 Aug 2021


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'The tears were flowing down h...

'The tears were flowing down his face' | Michael Duignan on Offaly's rising

Neil Treacy
Neil Treacy

20.38 18 Aug 2021


Share this article


Offaly county board chairman Michael Duignan says pride has been restored to their jersey, following their EirGrid All-Ireland u20 football championship success last Sunday.

The Faithful County bridged a 33 year gap of success at the u20 and u21 age grade, as well as claiming their first national title at any level since the 1998 hurling championship, with a three point win against Roscommon in Sunday's novel final pairing at Croke Park.

It follows a period of steady progression for the county across both football and hurling in the last year; their senior footballers winning back-to-back league promotions under manager John Maughan, contesting a Division 3 decider against Derry at Croke Park. Their senior hurling team have also been restored to Division 1 of the Allianz Hurling league, after winning the Christy Ring Cup.

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On top of their results on the pitch, the support of 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry has brought a feel good factor off the pitch, with the Clara native pledging financial support earlier this year.

County board chairman Michael Duignan joined Wednesday's Off the Ball, and says Sunday's u20 football title has sparked a renewed sense of pride for the county.

"It's great. It's great to be back competing. The biggest thing I see is that there is pride back in the jersey, and that all these great young men want to play for their county and they're totally committed.

"We've great management teams, we've a load of people in the background - volunteers - in the county board and management, stewards, volunteers all over our clubs, and just the sense out there is that everybody is working together for the betterment of Offaly.

"There's a great spirit in the county, a great buzz and excitement coming up to the All Ireland, but even before that there were a lot of people putting their shoulder to the wheel," he told Joe Molloy.

Duignan - who won two All-Ireland hurling titles with in 1994 and 1998 - says their progression in the last two years is a testament to the hard work being done behind the scenes, adding that while he did believe they could compete for silverware again, he didn't expect it to happen so soon.

"I'm the figurehead, but there's a lot of people in the background working really hard. It's tough going at times, but it's very rewarding when you see scenes like last Sunday, which maybe a lot of people told me they didn't think they'd ever see it again. They thought they'd never see Offaly win an All-Ireland again.

"Now, I believed we would. I'd be telling you a lie if I told you it was going to be this soon, but I wouldn't be in the job if I didn't think we could compete at the highest level, but we probably didn't see it happening so quickly," he said.

There were emotional scenes at Croke Park as Offaly's players and supporters celebrated an unlikely and rare success, and Duignan admitted that it didn't fully hit home until they returned to the county on Sunday night.

"What it meant to the people of Offaly - young and old - was incredible to see. I won't name people but to see men, and there's one great supporter in Tullamore, and the tears flowing down his face when he met me on Sunday night, just didn't think they'd see it again."


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Eirgrid U20 Football Championship Michael Duignan Offaly GAA Shane Lowry

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