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Former Dublin defender savours Leinster success he 'didn’t think was going to happen'

Rory O’Carroll won another medal at Croke Park to add to his collection.

Rory O’Carroll celebrates after the game with his team-mates.
Rory O’Carroll celebrates after the game with his team-mates.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

RORY O’CARROLL went into Saturday’s Leinster final with things other than football at the back of his mind. 

The Kilmacud Crokes defender was a colossus at the back of their win over Naas, rolling back the years in a venue where he enjoyed plenty of big days in the blue of Dublin.

With his wife heavily pregnant, one of his team-mates mischievously informed him after the final whistle that he’d missed the big moment. 

“Someone was winding him up saying the baby was born so he nearly had a heart attack after the game,” smiled Crokes manager Robbie Brennan. 

“He’s just unreal, his wife was due yesterday, I think.”

Having taken a sabbatical from his Dublin and Kilmacud career to live in New Zealand for four years, he wasn’t around for his club’s previous trip to the provincial decider in 2018. 

O’Carroll returned the following year and, after spending two seasons on the periphery of the Dublin panel, he departed the set-up and chose to focus on Crokes in 2021.

“When you play inter-county, you kind of feel, not that it’s your fault, but the club game gets neglected,” the two-time All-Star admitted. “And that’s probably due to the systems in place, the fixtures list and the calendar.

“Thankfully things look like they’re going to get better in the future. Hopefully they’ll stay that way. So yeah, just over the moon.

“As Paul Mannion said to us before the game, there’s no bigger and better stage than coming into Croke Park with your club, fighting for a championship trophy.

“So yeah, I didn’t think it was going to happen. But the fact that it did, I’m just going to enjoy it.”

O’Carroll and a number of the younger players weren’t around for the defeat to underdogs Mullinalaghta three years ago, so it wasn’t widely discussed in the lead-up to this game. 

“Robbie mentioned it on Thursday at our last training session before today that, basically, a lot of lads were there in 2018 but a lot of lads weren’t there either.

“It’s not really about that. You can’t replace a championship. That championship is gone. It’s done and dusted. You can’t replace it. You just have to move on and keep looking forward.

“Maybe there was a bit of redemption for some people on an individual level but it wasn’t really a collective thing.”

With star forward Paul Mannion now likely to miss the All-Ireland semi-final against Connacht champions Padraig Pearses, O’Carroll says his team can’t dwell on their absentees.

“It’s unfortunate that Paul wasn’t able to tog out today. Ben Shovlin was a last minute drop out as well because of Covid. Padraig Purcell had a shoulder operation.

“There’s always injuries in football and sport. Especially with the pandemic, it’s even more likely you’ll have people dropping out.

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“It’s something you just have to adapt to. It’s next man up. While we miss greatly all the players who weren’t there, we can’t dwell on it.

“There was one starting team today, one the last day and different one the day before. So I presume it will be different the next day again.

“That’s why we just have to drive on in training. Everyone having the attitude that they’re going to be playing the next day, no matter where they are or where they think they are in the squad.”

And the latest on his expecting wife?

“Inducement on Tuesday,” he smiled. 

BTL 5

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Kevin O'Brien

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