'There's too much made of the circus' - Interim Offaly boss keen to help footballers start afresh

Paul Rouse speaks to The42 as Offaly prepare to meet Antrim in the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.

INTERIM OFFALY BOSS Paul Rouse says he was ‘extremely honoured’ to be offered the opportunity to take charge of the footballers and help them move forward following a turbulent period.

Paul Rouse Source: Off The Ball Youtube Channel

Rouse was appointed to the position last month following the departure of Stephen Wallace, whose final weeks in charge of the team were shrouded in controversy.

The Kerry native was issued an eight-week suspension for his involvement in a melee during a Kerry IFC game back in April, which prevented him from carrying out his management duties for the Faithful County.

The situation sparked rumours of unrest in the camp and culminated in Wicklow dumping Offaly out of the Leinster SFC after extra-time, to seal their first win in the competition since 2013.

Becoming an inter-county manager was new territory for the UCD history lecturer and he’s grateful to have been given the space to organise his life in order to accept the challenge.

He may hold the official title of interim manager, but he insists that taking charge of the Offaly team is a collaborative effort which he shares with his management team of Stephen Darby, [brother] John Rouse and Alan McNamee.

“The players since our management team started has been fantastic,” he tells The42.

“Every player who was on the panel previously came back in and we got another six players to join the panel, all of whom were delighted at the opportunity.

It took one phone call to all of them, they were delighted to come back in. There was no cajoling or coaxing. Nothing was needed, they wanted to play for Offaly and that’s a massive thing.

“There were others with work and family commitments who were unable to come in but they were completely genuine, decent fellas who in other circumstances at the beginning of the ear would have come in

“Since then it’s been three weeks of exceptionally hard work and outstanding commitment by the players.”

Stephen Wallace Stephen Wallace Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The initial stages of the Wallace fallout coincided with exam season in UCD, meaning that Rouse missed out on some of the heavy coverage. Naturally, he did pick up on some of the details prior to Wallace’s dismissal.

He also watched on as his county suffered that five-point defeat to Wicklow in Portaloise and felt ‘immense sympathy’ for the players, knowing how much they had given to the inter-county cause.

I know how much they want to succeed for Offaly. And I know how badly they hurt,” says Rouse who has played with and against some of the current members of the panel.

“I never met the people who were involved in the management. I’ve never spoken to them and I kind of pride myself on judging on what I see in the evidence as I know it from meeting somebody.

“And in this instance, sometimes things just don’t work out and they may not necessarily be anyone’s fault. And that’s the way of it. Everybody has to get on with that and live on afterwards.

I think there is a kind of insatiable desire for controversy and I understand that. Everybody loves to watch a circus or a sideshow but sometimes it’s just not quite like that. Sometimes a thing just doesn’t work out and you move on.

Rouse is a two-time county championship winner with Tullamore, and his vision to improve the county team at the outset of his appointment was three-fold. Ensuring that as many of Offaly’s inter-county standard footballers were available for selection was step number one.

Preparing them for an All-Ireland qualifier clash against Antrim this evening [Throw-in, 6pm] in O’Connor Park was another task to be completed, while creating an enjoyable atmosphere for the players to train in was also an objective that was at the forefront of his mind.

On a personal level, Rouse wants to be able to reflect on this experience knowing that he did all that was possible to improve the health of Offaly football, which in turn will ultimately lead to further progression.

“I’ve had a long time playing with Tullamore and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve been involved with teams since then and to me, this is fun.

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Nigel Dunne Nigel Dunne in possession for Offaly against Wicklow. Source: Lorraine OÕSullivan/INPHO

“I don’t feel pressure from it. I don’t feel weighed down by any burden of expectation. I see only the prospect of joy. That is not to say bittersweet disappointment at losing or what ifs about decisions that have to be made.

“I think this is an incredible experience to enjoy and to embrace it has been an awful lot of fun.”

He added:

“I think there’s too much made of the circus. At the end of the day, there’s a white line around the pitch and a load of men and a ball playing the game.

“What could be better on a sunny Saturday evening than to be out doing that and relishing the opportunity to represent yourself, your county? But most of all, to experience that joy of playing football.”

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