Michael Fennelly has warned of the huge leap ahead for the winners of tomorrow’s Joe McDonagh Cup final next year.
Whoever emerges victorious from the second-tier decider between Offaly and Carlow at Croke Park will rejoin the Leinster Championship in 2024, with Offaly already guaranteed a place in the Allianz Hurling League top flight after winning the Division 2A title this year. .
Offaly won that title under Fennelly two years ago, but endured a difficult season in Division One last year, losing all six games, most of them heavily, as they were relegated and struggled for much of the following campaign. Joe McDonagh Cup.
READ MORE: Champions Kildare lead the way at EirGrid 20 Under-20 Awards with James McGrath named player of the year
“Those games are tough,” Fennelly said of Offaly’s exposure to the game’s elite. “We romanticized and flirted with going up to Division One and we did that last year and you’re playing Limerick, Cork, Clare, these teams, and you’re getting hammered and people are like, ‘Oh sure, it’s good to be. get games against these teams and it is not.
“You can’t be going up two or three levels, that’s how I see it. If you’re going to go up another level, great, you’re playing against a team that you can compete with for 50 minutes, 60 minutes, whatever, there’s a chance you can beat them, but if you go up two or three levels, that’s very difficult.”
Fennelly cited the difficulties Westmeath and Antrim have endured in the Leinster Championship this year. The former Offaly boss feels that while those counties can be competitive against places like Dublin and Wexford, as illustrated by Westmeath’s sensational win at Wexford Park last Sunday, the gap to the two strongest teams in the competition, Kilkenny and Galway, it’s too big to save. .
Antrim lost to Kilkenny by 17 points and Galway by 22, while Westmeath lost to them by 22 and 34 points respectively.
“I don’t know where the fun element is in that or how you can get motivated to take on games like that.” wondered the former Kilkenny star.
“I know there might be one or two games you can compete in, which is great, but if you get hammered like that, there’s no fun element to it and that’s hard.
“Any team [Offaly or Carlow]whoever wins, if he could stay up there it would be great to be honest but it is difficult, without a doubt.
“Even on the Liga side, that’s very difficult because if you end up in that strongest group, it’s very, very difficult to stay in it. It all depends on the group you join.
“We went up last year and played in Limerick. We played almost a full team from Limerick. We won Division 2A and here we are now playing the All-Ireland champions from the previous year. To me, that doesn’t make any sense.
“So I think there needs to be a bit more of a step-by-step process to play Dublins, Wexfords, Antrims, those teams, they’re ahead of Carlow and Offaly, but you feel like you can compete. and you’d hope to get a win or two maybe if it was possible, but that’s definitely more where I would see teams go against each other.
Get the latest sports headlines straight to your inbox by signing up for free email alerts