The Mount Leinster Rangers players have spoken of a unique mix of shock and elation when the referee blew the final whistle in Sunday’s AIB Leinster senior club final, and they realized they had just beaten Oulart-the-Ballagh from the hurling stronghold of Wexford.
That the Rangers are the new champions of their province just two years after winning the All-Ireland intermediate club title is honorable enough -- that they are the first club from Carlow to ever lift the Leinster crown makes the feat all the more remarkable.
Little wonder then that even days later, those associated with the progressive South Carlow club were still struggling to come to terms with the reality, never mind the magnitude, of their 0-11 to 0-8 win over the Wexford champions at Nowlan Park.
Beaten finalists for the last three years, Oulart-the-Ballagh suffered that fate again as Denis Murphy scored an incredible eight points in what he hopes is a deserved and breakthrough win for Carlow hurling.
Murphy insisted afterwards, “We felt coming here today that we’d every chance. We’d belief in our team to go and take this Oulart team. We’d huge respect for Oulart, they’d been here for the last three finals. They were beaten but they are still a great side.
“With 10 minutes to go we felt we’d a super panel that could push on. It’s understandable that one from outside the club gave us a chance. We won six out of the last eight Carlow Championships, we’ve won the last three in a row, we’ve won the All-Ireland Intermediate championship. We’re an experienced team but there’s a great bit of youth as well.
“We got our breakthrough on 2006, we won our first ever hurling championship and since then we’ve really been building on success after success.
“Hopefully, we can inspire more success, not just for ourselves but for Carlow, the county team and clubs teams to believe in themselves and go on and build on this platform and do great things from here.”
Mount Leinster Rangers manager Tom Mullally could hardly believe it himself as he addressed the media on the Nowlan Park pitch just minutes after the final whistle.
“It will only sink in once we go inside but there’s obviously delight and elation. I’m delighted for the players and the panel. They put in a massive effort and that showed out on the field today, Mullaly said.
“We came up to win. I know outside of our group, even within the club there probably wasn’t people who believed we could do it, but there was no point on us turning up unless we believed we could do it.”
Rangers made their push for glory with five unanswered points at the start of the second half, four of them from man of the match Murphy, before surging ahead in the dying minutes.
Not even an 11 wides tally could offer any comfort to the Oulart manager Martin Storey. The Wexford great acknowledged, “The key difference was that they took their chances and we didn’t take ours. If you look at it on the scoreboard they scored I’d say maybe five points from 60 or 70 yards. We were hitting wides from 30 yards.
“I’d say the players were probably feeling a little bit of pressure, but you don’t know. You can’t get inside anybody’s head. They were trying so hard, we never loosened up to relax enough I’d say to just stroke the ball over the bar. We were trying to force it over the bar. You are trying that hard that it goes wrong on you at times.”