Mount Leinster take Carlow’s first ever Leinster hurling crown

Oulart-the-Ballagh’s wayward shooting proves costly as they lose fourth final in a row

Mount Leinster Rangers’ Paul Coady holds off the challenge of Lar Prendergast of Oulart-The Ballagh during yesterday’s Leinster club hurling final at Nowlan Park. Photograph: James Crombie/inpho

Mount Leinster Rangers’ Paul Coady holds off the challenge of Lar Prendergast of Oulart-The Ballagh during yesterday’s Leinster club hurling final at Nowlan Park. Photograph: James Crombie/inpho

Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 01:00

Mount Leinster Rangers 0-11 Oulart the Ballagh 0-8

With the season’s last breath, a closing verse that sang once again of the old game’s capacity to surprise and delight. Mount Leinster Rangers are Leinster champions, the first senior provincial title-holders in all of Carlow’s hurling history.

In a game where they wore specially-commissioned black jerseys to avoid a colour clash, they turned the grey of a winter’s afternoon into a life-affirming kaleidoscope.

Those of us who came to Kilkenny expecting to see a long-overdue coronation for Oulart left having experienced something far more visceral. This felt like an awakening, a flag planted in the ground.

From the moment the Borris side emerged to a roar that shook the stand, this was more than a club reaching the summit. It was a county standing up for itself. Against condescension. Against disdain. Against league structures and cosy cartels and snooty delegates in far off county boards.

They won here because they hurled better and dug deeper. When the game needed battling for, they battled for it. When the game needed scores to be taken, they took them. The team was heroic but in centre-back Richard Coady they had an impenetrable barrier and in corner-forward Denis Murphy they had a marksman whose aim was true.

On most days, that’s enough to give anyone a chance. On a day when the opposition is stuck to the ground and can’t get anything going, it’s a ticket to Valhalla. Throw in a dash of good old-fashioned crankiness at having been written off and you get what happened here.

“They were overwhelming favourites,” said Rangers manager Tom Mullally afterwards, “and that kind of thing boils up no matter how much experience you have behind you. We’re not under any illusions. We knew we were underdogs and while we mightn’t have played great hurling today, our job was to win the game. That’s what we came to do and that’s what we did.

Melting pot
“When we started we wanted to get into the dressing-room still in the game. And we felt if it was in the melting-pot with ten minutes to go that Oulart would start asking themselves questions. That’s only natural. But we had to have our players ask questions of them and they did.”

Job One took a little bit of doing and MLR were grateful to get to the break only 0-5 to 0-3 behind. Oulart were having the better of things around the middle third but their shooting meant they got poor value for their toil. On a calm day they had eight wides in the first half and dropped three balls into Frank Foley’s chest.

Des Mythen and Rory Jacob landed a couple of smart scores from distance and corner-back Eoin Moore launched one from his own 65 but otherwise it was wayward stuff. Some shots were snatched at, some were careless. It seemed inconceivable that they could freeze for a fourth Leinster final in a row but it seemed that was the case.

“Well I wouldn’t say they were nervous,” said manager Martin Storey as he tried to make sense of it all afterwards. “But I would just say they were feeling pressure,” said manager Martin Storey. “There’s a difference between nervous. . . nervous is something you get when you’re a young fella and you haven’t been there before. But pressure is a thing that’s in the back of your head somewhere: ‘Jesus Christ, let’s hope this doesn’t go wrong again’.

“And that can come from the back of your head to the front of your head and it can come out in your hurling and it can come out in your performance. But, like, I mean, there’s no excuses – we didn’t perform well enough to win the game.”

But in the second half Mount Leinster did exactly that. They shot comfortably, they shot precisely. Three Murphy frees were all they had to show for the first half and he kept his radar set throughout the second.

His first from play drew them level with 20 minutes to go and another free a minute later sent them into a lead that, incredible, they didn’t surrender.

Diarmuid Byrne came forward and nailed a sideline cut. Paul Coady split the posts twice from distance. All Oulart had in response was a Rory Jacob free and a late Mythen point.

In the end it was comfortable. A comfortable win for a Carlow side in a Leinster final.

Imagine.
MOUNT LEINSTER RANGERS: F Foley; M Doyle, G Doyle, G Kelly; Diarmuid Byrne (0-1, sideline cut), R Coady, E Coady; Derek Byrne, P Nolan; P Coady (0-2), E Byrne, D Phelan; D Murphy (0-8, six frees); J Coady, E Doyle. Subs: HP O’Byrne for J Coady (45 ), J Hickey for E Doyle (53 ), W Hickey for P Coady (58 mins).
OULART THE BALLAGH: B O’Connor; E Moore (0-1, free), K Rossiter, B Kehoe; C Goff, P Roche, L Prendergast; M Jacob, S Murphy; D Nolan (0-1), D Redmond (0-1), D Mythen (0-2); R Jacob (0-2, 0-1 free), G Sinnott, C O’Leary (0-1). Subs: D Stamp for Goff (temp), 3-7 mins; N Kirwan for O’Leary, (45 mins); Stamp for Murphy ( 58 mins).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).