Rossiter and Oulart use fear of defeat to cultivate a winning habit
Keith Rossiter puts it as politely as possible when admitting he “wasn’t crying” when Henry Shefflin left the field injured in last Saturday’s Leinster club hurling semi-final, although that’s not the only reason Oulart-The-Ballagh eventually emerged as winners.
The Wexford champions had already fallen six points behind Ballyhale Shamrocks after just 20 minutes when Shefflin – Kilkenny’s hurler of the year – limped off with an ankle injury.
Sure, it helped their prospects, but in the final rush to get over the finish line it was the fear of defeat that ultimately drove Oulart-The-Ballagh towards the one-point victory.
“You can talk in meetings about what if this happens, or that happens, but there are very few meetings where you talk about falling six points down,” says Rossiter, ahead of Sunday’s final showdown against Offaly champions Kilcormac-Killoughey.
“But the team and the lads reacted very well, we got a couple of scores on the board, and all of a sudden there were only three or four in it. There were no panic stations. If we had been six points down with five minutes to go there would have been panic but it was early in the game, we had 40 or 50 minutes left and we stayed playing.”
But having lost the last two Leinster finals, and four in total, that desire to close out the deal also kept their eyes on the prize – and not just the sight of Shefflin leaving the field.
“No, I wasn’t crying when I saw Henry going off,” says Rossiter with a smile.
“But what was vital was we got a couple of scores at that time. If they had tagged on one or two points the game could have been over. It was the way the teams reacted, our lads reacted better, and maybe they dropped a bit and maybe they thought the game was over. We lifted it when he went off, and we pushed on.
“And the heads didn’t drop. That was one of the big things. It was my man, Colin Fennelly, got their first goal and when I turned around to go back out, the boys were just ready for the next puck out.
“I don’t know if it was a confidence thing or not but we have been under pressure a lot this year, in our own county championship, then against Kilmacud in Parnell Park. We’ve handled the pressure well and there was a bit of experience to stay plugging away, get a couple of scores, and thankfully we came out the right side of it.
“But there is no point in getting carried away because the job is only half done. There was no silverware won last Saturday and we have to go face another big Offaly team in Nowlan Park this Sunday, so it is all down to that day now.”
Indeed while Kilcormac-Killoughey are making their Leinster final debut, Oulart-The Ballagh have lost the last two – to O’Loughlin Gaels in 2010, and to Coolderry of Offaly last year (plus in 1994, to Birr, and in 1995, to Glenmore). Without any prompting, therefore, Rossiter confesses to a classic case of one match at a time, especially given they’ll start Sunday’s final as flat-out favourites.
“We beat James Stephens last year (in the semi-final) and got beaten in the Leinster final. I’d say the same this year for Kilcormac, would you rather be playing Oulart-The Ballagh or Ballyhale in the final? We’d think the same if we were on the other side of the draw.
“They are very happy drawing ourselves and we have to be aware of that. It is just about getting ourselves right this week, getting our own heads right.
“Personally, I’d love to have a Leinster medal in the cabinet, but it won’t be easy to get it this weekend either. If we do get it we will have earned it.”
This weekend's fixtures
Leinster Club SFC final
Portlaoise (Laois) v Ballymun Kickhams (Dublin), Cuasack Park Mullingar, 1.45
Leinster Club SHC final Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) v Oulart-the-Ballagh (Wexford), Nowlan Park, 2.0