OFFALY manager, Ollie Baker was happy but he was far from satisfied with a moral victory in Sunday’s Leinster senior hurling quarter-final against the All-Ireland champions.
The challengers put four goals past the Kilkenny defence, and while that pleased the former Clare star, he wanted more, much more going forward.
“We played well. We did,” Baker repeated. “We played with great pace. The fact that we are not playing at that pace in every game down in Division I B of the League and not having a long run in the championship every year makes it hard for us to hit that pace on a consistent basis.
“I think that was what caught us in the end. The pace Kilkenny play at is savage. We were coming up to that level, and an awful lot of the frees were gave away were because we weren’t used to playing at this level.
“Look, we got our chances. We took them. I couldn’t have asked any more of the boys. Joe Bergin’s goal was fantastic, perhaps the goal of the century. I was saying in the dressing-room that to hear the crowd roar in championship after a score like that, there is nothing better.
“That effort will give us a great bit of belief. The players can say ‘let’s go, let’s have a crack at this.”
He said an awful lot of people wrote off Offaly, saw them as no hopers. That was fair enough, he felt.
“Anyone going out against Kilkenny will be in the same boat,” he mused. “People said ‘don’t tog out at all, because this is Kilkenny’. They suggested if we stayed within 10 or 15 points we would be doing well.
“The only people who took us seriously was the Kilkenny team. That is Brian Cody’s style, to take no one for granted. We are delighted to be so close, knowing we can live at that pace for a certain period of any game.
“Unfortunately that is no good if we don’t carry the form forward. The challenge for us is that we get a couple of games out of this summer of hurling. We finished our hurling last year on July 6. We didn’t play another game until the end of February. That is too long.
“If we want to live at this pace and get back into the Leinster championship next year, and to understand what it is all about, we have to get three or four championship matches. That’s our target.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t do that. The players believe they can do it too. There’s no point putting in performances - it’s about having belief,” he concluded.