Carlow unhappy hurling league status quo stays but find solace in Mount Leinster’s progress
Derek Byrne of Mount Leinster Rangers celebrates after the Carlow side defeated Dublin hurling champions Ballyboden St Endas to progress to a Leinster club final meeting with Wexford kingpins Oulart-the-Ballagh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Saturday’s Central Council vote to retain the National Hurling League top tier status quo of two graded sections of six was particularly disappointing for Carlow.
While resigned to life in Division Two A next season, at least, their fortunes took a notable upturn just 24 hours later when Mount Leinster Rangers became the first Carlow club to make a Leinster club final.
Carlow, along with Westmeath, were behind the “Super 14” proposal that would have changed the league format to two even sections of seven, but that was voted down 19-17.
The vote to retain the current league format – albeit with the addition of quarter-finals - was voted through 23-20.
“We’d be very disappointed, more so that some counties we thought would vote for our proposal didn’t vote for us,” said Carlow chairman Ger Lennon.
“And we still lost out by only two votes. If it had been 18-18 on the vote it would have been decided by the president, and that might have been enough.
“But we are resigned to that now, that this is the end of the road, at least for next year.
“It’s been dragging on for two months already. But it is going to make the job of promoting hurling in Carlow so much more difficult.”
While Cork hurling manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy has declared his satisfaction with the outcome – even though it means contesting Division One B next year, along with Munster champions Limerick – his sentiments aren’t shared at county board level: Limericktoo are reluctantly accepting the structure while questioning the length of time it took.
It has also emerged that both Cork and Limerick voted down the Carlow-Westmeath proposal of a “Super 14” structure on the assumption that the third proposal, which would have had two evenly seeded sections of six teams, would be passed.
What is certain is with the next hurling league review not until 2016 it could be a long time before the likes of Carlow get to compete alongside hurling’s elite.
Indeed no one is more disappointed at the outcome of Saturday’s vote than Carlow manager John Meyler: “He’s absolutely raging,” said Lennon. “And I know a lot of the Carlow players are too. We just hope that he will stick with it, because he has made great progress since coming in.”
Few hurling teams have made more progress recently than Mount Leinster Rangers.
In becoming the first Carlow club to make a Leinster hurling final, after taking out the Dublin champions Ballyboden St Enda’s in Sunday’s semi-final at Dr Cullen Park, they’ve provided a timely reminder of the potential of a county that only has six senior hurling clubs, concentrated in pockets of the south.
Not that the Carlow secretary was surprised at Sunday’s breakthrough: “No, not at all,” said Lennon. “They’re a very, very good team and having been coming strong for the last few years now. Mount Leinster Rangers are proof of what can be achieved with Carlow hurling.”
The prize for beating Ballyboden St Endas – who just a week before had won a sixth Dublin hurling title in seven years – is a Leinster final against Wexford champions Oulart-the-Ballagh, who will contest a fourth consecutive provincial final still looking for a first title.
That final, set for Sunday week, December 1st, was yesterday fixed for Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.
That won’t bother Mount Leinster Rangers too much as they’re managed by Kilkenny native Tom Mullally, who also trained Kilkenny champions Clara. Mullally has been working with the Carlow club for the last seven years, the club itself only founded in 1987 with the amalgamation of club teams Borris, Ballymurphy and Rathanna.