Carlow club St Mullins shocked the hurling world yesterday, with a 2-13 to 0-18 victory over fancied Dublin champions Cuala.
But in the aftermath of their famous Leinster club championship win, joy quickly turned to despair as word reached the team that selector Micheál Ryan — father of substitute Oisín — was fighting for his life in the stand. It was later confirmed he had suffered a heart attack.
As silence fell in Netwatch Cullen Park, supporters watched as three ambulances drove onto the pitch. Almost an hour later Ryan was taken to hospital. Today his brother Moling Ryan confirmed Micheál was making a good recovery.
“He is doing well. They are doing more tests on him today. He was talking last night but he is upset today thinking of what happened. Today reality is hitting home how lucky he was with the people who were there. A doctor from Dublin and all the medics. They were absolutely brilliant.”
With Micheál improving, his brother Moling was happy to reflect on the club’s superb win.
It is a phenomenal victory. The biggest the club ever had. I know we beat O’Tooles in 2002 when they were the Dublin champions. They hadn’t two All-Irelands behind them then.
St Mullins, on the Wexford-Carlow border, is a scenic spot which attracts walkers and cyclists along the River Barrow. You could hardly call it a village never mind a town. It is a stunningly beautiful area.
The small population is spread far and wide. A rough estimate puts its adult club members at around 100 paid adults. They have only won two minor titles in their history but lifted their 27th senior hurling title in Carlow this year. Naomh Eoin, with 18 titles, are a distant second place and they haven’t won a senior title since 2005.
The emergence of Mount Leinster Rangers which borders the St Mullins parish has created a healthy rivalry in Carlow hurling. This year St Mullins halted Rangers hopes of winning three-in-a-row titles.
The minor stat is interesting. It isn’t that the club isn’t putting in a huge effort at underage level but the players are not there.
“We are a small rural club,” says Moling Ryan.
“From one end of the parish to the other is very small. We are lucky to have the talent we have in a small area.
“We have struggled at underage for many years but we can still add one or two to the (senior) panel every year. Once you keep young lads interested and keep adding to the panel you are never going to be too far wrong.”
Late on Sunday after it was coming clear Micheál Ryan was awake and talking, the St Mullins captain Marty Kavanagh, who scored 10 points, said his side were never intimidated by the reputation of their vaunted opponents.
“I suppose the hurling world are in shock but as a club we aren’t. We were confident going into this game and felt we could win it. Our intensity and work rate were good and we enjoyed the match.”