Buggy defends reputation of Carlow hurling

THE primary concern for Kilkenny man Tommy Buggy these last few days has been the preparation of Carlow champions St Mullin’s for the herculean task of taking on reigning AIB All-Ireland titleholders Birr in the Leinster semi-final in O’Moore Park on Sunday.

Wearing a different hat, he is chairman of his own club in Castlecomer, Erins Own. Ask him the right question and he will stoutly defend the reputation of Carlow hurling, dismissing what he perceives as the snobbery of people in the so-called strong counties.

St Mullin’s is described as a big, long rural parish situated at the southern end of the county, sandwiched between Kilkenny and Wexford. The next parish is Graiguenamanagh and Rathnure is only a short distance away. The village is better known for its historic ruins commemorating St Mullin rather than for its hurling.

Buggy, a former Kilkenny minor, has only been with them since March and in that time he has delivered junior, under-21 and senior hurling titles. “It’s ninety-nine-and-a-half percent hurling, but there’s a junior football team in there somewhere,” he comments.

For him it involves a round trip of about 65 miles for training, “a handy trip” over the hills.

“They are good hurling people. They love their hurling. They really do. The standard is excellent,’’ he says.

“People from the strong counties tend to look down the Carlows of this world. You come across that snobbery even though they are now in the Leinster semi-final. Tommy Doyle, the full-back is an excellent hurler. He got man-of-the-match the last day (against O’Toole’s). Everybody knows about Pat Cody and you have other fine hurlers in Declan Kavanagh, Richard Dreelan and Shamie O’Shea.”

Not only did he fancy his team’s chances of beating Westmeath side Lough Lein Gaels, but he had been confident going against the Dublin champions O’Tooles. “I knew we would beat them if we hurled to our potential. Having said that, in the first half our fellows froze, but they gave an absolute exhibition in the second half. They turned a five points deficit into a six points lead in 20 minutes.

“My own club was playing in the Leinster football championship the same day and people from the parish were at the match. They could not believe the standard of hurling we produced in the second half.”

Not unexpectedly, he is much more cautious in his approach to Sunday’s game. “At this stage you can’t expect anything easy. We could have drawn Gowran and we’d be facing up to DJ Carey and Charlie Carter, or it could have been Rathnure. But, if we are to make progress we have to be meeting teams like these.

“Birr are a fabulous team, no doubt about it. They are the All-Ireland champions and you have to respect them. They also have a very balanced team. Johnny Pilkington rambled in from midfield to corner-forward and set up two goals.

“Nobody noticed him and bang, Castletown were gone. They are that kind of a team

“Obviously, we can’t afford to lose concentration against them at any stage. It’s as simple as that.”

A Carlow club has yet to qualify for the final of the Leinster club hurling championship, but Naomh Eoin previously contested a semi-final.

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