1. Carlow clubs record in Leinster senior hurling
Mount Leinster Rangers became the first Carlow club to win a Leinster senior hurling final today but their achievement is more impressive than that.
For example this year was only the third time that a Carlow team featured at the semi-final stage in the competition.
That game against Ballyboden St-Enda’s was also the 29th clash between a Carlow club and opponents from the big five of Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin, Offaly and Laois. The only previous victory had arrived in 2002 when St Mullins defeated the then Dublin champions O’Toole’s by 3-10 to 3-7.
Mount Leinster Rangers did feature in the Leinster senior championship last year – losing to Kilcormac-Killoughey by five points. But between 2008 and 2011, the Carlow senior champions competed at intermediate level in Leinster.
Amidst a backdrop of Carlow clubs struggling to make an impression on the provincial senior stage, Mount Leinster Rangers have claimed seismic wins this year.
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
2. Mount Leinster Rangers rise to prominence
Mount Leinster Rangers was founded in 1987 with the amalgamation of 3 pre-existing club teams from the parish – Borris, Ballymurphy and Rathanna – completed in 1988.
The club skirts the Kilkenny border in south Carlow – it’s just three miles away from the pitch of Kilkenny club Blacks & Whites – while seven miles to the east is the Wexford border.
With plenty other clubs in proximity, Mount Leinster Rangers are not blessed with huge playing resources. Their progress has been incremental but has gathered pace in recent years.
They contested the Carlow senior hurling final in 2001 but lost that game, along with deciders in 2003 and 2005, before finally triumphing in 2006.
Since then they have claimed silverware in 2007 and 2009 before completing three-in-a-row this year. Indeed Mount Leinster Rangers have contested the last nine Carlow county finals and won six of them.
They only made their bow in the Leinster senior arena in 2006, losing out to Craobh Chiarain, before being defeated the following year by Ballyhale Shamrocks.
In 2009 and 2011 Mount Leinster Rangers would have featured in the Leinster intermediate championship before last year rejoining the senior ranks when they lost to Kilcormac. Earlier this year they won their first ever Leinster senior game when beating Westmeath’s Castletown Geoghegan by two points before famous wins over Ballyboden St-Enda’s and Oulart-The-Ballagh.
3. Managing to graduate from intermediate to senior
In February 2012, Mount Leinster Rangers won the All-Ireland intermediate title. They became the first Carlow club to achieve that feat, with a two-point win over Armagh’s Middletown following up a semi-final success against London’s Robert Emmett’s.
They’re the first club to have won the national intermediate crown since the competition’s inception in 2005 and subsequently reach or win a provincial senior decider.
Managing that rate of development in just over 18 months, is a superb achievement.
Mount Leinster Rangers celebrate their 2012 All-Ireland win
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
4. The quality of the opposition they defeated this year
Mount Leinster Rangers have conquered sides this year who are certainly no mugs. Ballyboden St-Enda’s have won six of the last seven Dublin county senior hurling titles. They are seasoned campaigners in Leinster club hurling
Gary Maguire, Stephen Hiney, Conal Keaney and Paul Ryan all started on the Dublin team that won the Leinster title in July while Shane Durkin and Conor McCormack came on in that game.
Malachy Travers brings plenty experience to the Ballyboden rearguard from his days with Wexford. While the likes of Niall McMorrow, David Curtin and Finn McGarry have also stockpiled inter-county experience.
In the Oulart-The-Ballagh team, the likes of Keith Rossiter, Michael and Rory Jacob, David Redmond and Garrett Sinnott have all represented the Model County in recent years. Yet both Ballyboden and Oulart have been usurped this year by Mount Leinster Rangers.
5. The clubs left in the All-Ireland senior hurling race
There’s only four clubs now left in the race to be crowned All-Ireland senior hurling champions in Croke Park next year. Galway’s Portumna and Antrim’s Loughgiel Shamrocks are all past winners, while Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh have featured strongly in recent years on the club senior scene.
For Mount Leinster Rangers this is unchartered territory. But the Carlow champions have done superbly and their feat is more praiseworthy when you consider that hurling heavyweights like Kilkenny, Tipperary, Cork, Offaly, Waterford, Dublin, Clare and Wexford have no representative left in the race.
Mount Leinster’s Paul Coady celebrates with his brother Kyle after their semi-final win
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie