Who says? Portumna manager Frank Canning, that’s who.
“They’re a huge story and deservedly so, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “They have so many talented, experienced players, very strong, and they also have a tremendous work-rate, hugely important for any top team.”
Every step of the way Mount Leinster Rangers have overcome tremendous odds, beating Westmeath champions Castletown Geoghegan (1-15 to 1-13) in the first round in Leinster, then hotly fancied multiple Dublin kingpins Ballyboden St Enda’s (1-17 to 3-9), before really upsetting the apple cart in the Leinster final by beating virtual certainties Oulart-The Ballagh, 0-11 to 0-8. Then came Loughgiel Shamrocks, All-Ireland champions of 2012, and another close one, just a point in it this time, 0-18 to 2-11.
And still the bookies persist, still Mount Leinster Rangers are given no chance, odds of 4/1 offered for this one. It’s the experience of Portumna, they say, three All-Ireland titles, ignoring totally the fact that Mount Leinster Rangers have won an even more recent All-Ireland club title, in 2012.
‘Ah, that was only intermediate!’ cry the detractors. Only intermediate?
Mount Leinster Rangers were succeeded in that title last year by Clara, who went on to win the Kilkenny senior title, were pipped then by Oulart in the Leinster semi-final, who in turn... well, ye know the rest.
“It’s not lost to us I can tell you, how good they are, but that’s the bookies for you. Time and time again they’ve got it wrong with Mount Leinster Rangers,” said Canning.
“You can be lucky in one match but against top opposition you won’t be lucky in game after game.
“The key thing from a Portumna perspective is that we know what we’re facing. This is a team that has earned the right to be in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.”
All that said, we also have to acknowledge the magnificent achievement of Portumna defying the odds in getting back to Croke Park four years after their last appearance, with a team most had written off as past its prime. No credit to me, says Canning, this is down to the players.
“The manager has influence getting fellas ready for what happens inside the white lines but once the ball is thrown in, the match takes on a life of its own and it’s then up to the players, they decide the outcome.
“We’ve had several different managers but it’s the consistency of the performance by the players that’s key to the success, they go about their business in a very professional manner. It’s all about the players, that’s the bottom line.”