Winter's tale of joy for Rathnure

 

Steam bellows from the Rathnure dressing-room and it seems as though the entire parish crowds around the narrow door, for warmth alone.

Dan Quigley rests his frame in the chill corridors of Nowlan Park.

"On a day like that, the break of a ball can fall anywhere. When it hit the ground, it just fell dead. We were worried early on after they got the goal, but we got through it."

Back in the 1960s Dan captained Wexford to an All-Ireland and he has had a hand in all of Rathnure's expeditions through Leinster.

"Yeah, that's number six, it's great for us. This club championship has gone from strength to strength, but I don't agree with the time it's played. Never was for winter hurling." Rod Guiney's shock of red hair stands bright against a mud-splattered torso. "Delighted. It wasn't a day for stylish hurling, but I think everyone got stuck in and we deserved it. We knew what to expect of Portlaoise and although it wasn't a spectacular game to watch, we took our chances."

He waves off talk of All-Irelands. "Ah, there are a lot of teams still there. St Joseph's are a very good team, they'll probably be favourites to win it. It's just one game at a time for us."

Similar sentiments from fullback John Conran: "We have it all to do from here. We have Ballgalget, I think, in the semi-final and then, please God, either Athenry or St Joseph's, both very good sides, so it's all to look forward to."

Austin Codd is busy picturing his first-half goal. "What I remember is getting a deflection and the ball was flicked on to me, but I mis-hit it, my jersey got caught, it was so wet and I didn't connect right on the ball. But luckily it went in anyway.

"The conditions in that second half were as bad as I've seen, unbelievable. Maybe it was just the side of the pitch I was on but I've never seen anything like it."

The Portlaoise players exit quickly, young and dejected.

"The ball stopped going into our forward line, we just went out of it," admits manager Seamus Plunkett.

"Rathnure have very capable, solid players and overall they were that bit stronger. But we were delighted to be here and there'll be another day for this team."