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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Rangers to chart advance

Mount Leinster Rangers' Edward Byrne in action against Ballyboden St Enda's Conal Keaney. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE
Mount Leinster Rangers' Edward Byrne in action against Ballyboden St Enda's Conal Keaney. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

RISING to hurling's elite 'clique' isn't easy, but Mount Leinster can help Carlow on their way AS put-downs go, it was garish, über-snooty, an exhibition of elitism in its purest form.

John Corcoran, the former Cork football selector under Billy Morgan, speaking as a delegate for St Mary's at a recent County Board meeting was responding to Carlow hurling captain Edward Coady's public accusation that the Rebels were trying to "dictate the structure of the league".

"For somebody from Carlow to be lecturing Cork on hurling," announced Corcoran, "is akin to Jedward telling Pavarotti how to sing".

It's unlikely he was perturbed when the statement went public, either.

The Rebels had been pushing for a 12-team top flight, one which would save their bacon from the drudge of Division 1B in its current guise.

Equally, Carlow's sense of self preservation had seen them, along with Westmeath, campaign for a split of the League into two even sections of seven, one which would have spared them their 2014 in Division 2A, a programme of games not conducive to the sort of vault the Barrowsiders are looking to make next year.

They were voted down 19-17.

Neither got their wish, but the idea that Cork's need somehow superseded Carlow's isn't new to those studiously assembling the building blocks on Barrowside.

It's been a lively year in Carlow hurling and, while not all of the drama has concluded to their satisfaction, the county is, at least, forward-facing in its aim to establish permanence amongst hurling's clique.

Little things have fallen their way. Others have tumbled unkindly.

Either way, they're more relevant as a hurling force than at any stage in the past 20 years, and that can't be anything other than progressive.

Biggest

Their biggest day came back in June, on a Tuesday evening few expected to pan out any other way than routine – it didn't.

The county's U21s beat a Dublin team captained by recently-anointed All Star Danny Sutcliffe and containing two outstanding former minor hurlers in Ciarán Kilkenny and Cormac Costello, an U21 team that was effectively a conglomerate of two Leinster minor winning teams of 2011 and '12.

Previously, John Meyler's senior team had come within agonising minutes of beating first Limerick and then Offaly in Allianz NHL 1B action, victories which might have spared their relegation and subsequent boardroom battles.

On Sunday, though, Mount Leinster Rangers – with Ballyboden St Enda's already stuffed and mounted a fortnight back – will be the first team from the county to contest an AIB Leinster club SHC final when they take on Oulart-the Ballagh, Wexford's perennial conquerors but the province's apparently eternal second-placers.

Fluke

"The fact that the Carlow U21s had beaten the Dublin U21s in Parnell Park ... Mount Leinster beating Ballyboden showed that that wasn't a fluke in any way," says Meyler, who as a former Wexford manager, has a closely-honed knowledge of both teams.

"You have strong players in there. Strong characters and strong personalities. The Coadys, the Byrnes ... they've been there and they bring that experience to it.

"The fact that they're on the border of Wexford and Kilkenny ... the whole Kilkenny thing rubs off on them. So they have that expertise.

"It's a club that has been working hard over the last number of years and you can see it coming now."

As much as anyone, Meyler was disappointed with Central Council's decision not to adopt Carlow's Super 14 proposal, but he says he's past the point of expending energy over it.

"Ah ... look, I've moved on," he says. "I've moved on and I'll keep my thoughts to myself," though he acknowledges their defeat at administration level might be soothed somewhat were Mount Leinster Rangers to win on Sunday.

"Last year, we fed off the Coadys, Paul Coady, Richard Coady, Eddie Coady ... the three of them are on the team all the time. They bring that confidence to it.

"And it just shows you work that has been put into that club, that they're now in a Leinster club final after being in the Intermediate Championship just two years ago."

Rangers have won six of the last eight Carlow titles since their maiden success of 2006.

In 2011, they were All-Ireland Intermediate champions.

Bounce

Oulart-the Ballagh, meanwhile, have won five in Wexford on the bounce, but their failure to beat Kilkenny's O'Loughlin Gaels (2011), or Offaly duo Coolderry (2012) and Kilcormac-Killoughey 12 months ago in successive Leinster Club SHC finals merely embellished their story of woe at such junctures, having lost to Birr and Glenmore in the 1994 and 1995 provincial deciders.

"I think Wexford has been too easy for them," reasons Meyler.

"They have been the mainstay of Wexford over the past 10 years, with Darren Stamp, Keith Rossiter, Paul Roche, the two Jacobs, David Redmond, Garret Sinnott.

"Every year, they feel it's going to come for them next year. And that's no different this year.

"But I think it will be a close game. There is very little distance between the two places," he adds.

"There is a familiarity there with Nowlan Park and I just think it will be a lot closer than maybe some people are expecting."

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