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“The Offaly public has fallen in love with this team”

Offaly chairman Michael Duignan describes the passion the public have for the Under-20 team ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Cork

Offaly chairman Michael Duignan describes the passion the public have for the Under-20 team ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Cork.

Michael Duignan says that the Offaly public has fallen in love with their underage stars.

The Faithful are in an All-Ireland Under-20 final against Cork on Sunday with a number of the talented youngsters who excelled at minor in 2022.

Leo O’Connor’s charges suffered a cruel defeat to the Premier when Paddy McCormack flicked home a late winning goal, but no momentum has been lost.

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The huge crowds that followed them across the country last year have done so once more, with Dr Cullen Park packed out for the Leinster final win over Wexford.

Semple Stadium will be heaving on Sunday, and it brings to mind Duignan’s underage days when 30,000 people showed up for their All-Ireland Under-21 loss to Tipp in 1989.

The seniors lost a Joe McDonagh final to Carlow last weekend, but the numbers that will show up for the Under-20s will far outstrip that which went to Croke Park.

“It is (strange),” Duignan admits. “Offaly brought 14,000 people to Nowlan Park last year (for the All-Ireland minor final against Tipperary) and I’d imagine there’s going to be 15,000 or 16,000 from Offaly at this.

“Because there’s more kids… the Offaly jerseys are everywhere, and Michael (Verney) can testify to that. It’s unbelievable.

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“I’m a long time going to Croke Park commentating and everything, and I always watch the minor match and see the young lads playing at half time — the National Schools.

“And the National School team from Offaly last Saturday at half time, they were unbelievable.

“I don think I’ve ever seen a better team at half time — their fielding, their athleticism, their left and right, teamwork was unbelievable.

“I hope that’s a good sign for the future but it was really at a very high level.

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“The young lads that we have, it’s a very young team and we have 27 of the squad next year, and 14 the year after, and you’re not putting pressure on these lads.

“But the Adam Screeneys and the Dan Ravenhills, the younger lads, your Charlie Mitchells, Sam Bourkes, Joe Hoctor and so on, there are so many exciting talents.

“The one thing, and this is all that Offaly people ever wanted, is that when you go out on the field that you give it everything you have, and whatever happened at the end of the day.

“Play with a bit of flair and a bit of style and a bit of panache, and go for it. That’s what these lads do.

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“We have been so long waiting for these types of players to come again that the public has just fallen in love with them. They’re bringing massive crowds.

“We’d do well to get a couple of thousand to our senior hurling or football matches, but these lads can bring 15,000 or 16,000, and that’s a credit to them.”

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