Mount Leinster Rangers 1-17 Ballyboden St Enda’s 3-9
Just 24 hours after Carlow was literally dispensed to the lower leagues of hurling, purveyors of the ancient game within the county got a major shot in the arm as Mount Leinster Rangers made a nonsense of the pre-match odds to slay Ballyboden St Enda’s in a rip-roaring encounter.
In the process, they became the first Carlow club to reach a Leinster senior hurling final.
An indication of the magnitude of their task was that this was only the third time in the history of the competition that a team from the county had reached the last four.
In 28 previous outings against the province’s top five of Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin, Offaly and Laois, a Carlow club had only managed one victory.
Throw into the mix that Ballyboden had six members of the Dublin panel that enjoyed their own massive breakthrough this summer, as well as former Wexford defender Malachy Travers, and you could understand why nobody gave them a chance.
“We’ve come up from intermediate level,” said manager Tom Mullally of a club established just 26 years ago. “The likes of Ballyboden, Oulart, Kilcormac have been there; they’re seasoned teams. We’re not so much learning our trade but trying to improve year on year.”
They had already broken new ground for Carlow when winning the intermediate All-Ireland 20 months ago and served notice of their potential when pushing Kilcormac-Killoughey to five points last year.
“We felt we had an opportunity against Kilcormac and didn’t take the opportunities that were there,” Mullally stated. “If we had to come out second best today, we would have looked back with regret at the chances we created and didn’t take as well.”
They were certainly unlucky to be two points in arrears at the interval, but it said a lot for their character that this was the case, having been struck by two big blows in the form of goals from Gavin Corrigan and the dangerous Conor McCormack.
Derek Byrne, Eddie Byrne and Denis Murphy knew where the Dr Cullen Park posts were though and while a couple of goal chances were butchered, they would have been happy to be in contention, 2-7 to 0-11 down at half-time.
With numbers channelling back into defence, they completely stifled the McCormack threat after the resumption, while Conal Keaney and Paul Ryan never exerted much of an influence on proceedings.
There were three penalties in this dramatic period, with two going to Ballyboden. The sides were level when Frank Foley saved Paul Ryan’s first penalty and MLR had a goal within a minute after Diarmuid Byrne found his brother, Eddie completely isolated with 10 minutes remaining.
“It was probably the turning point of the game as it was a six-point turnaround in our favour which was important to us at the time,” admitted Mullally.
Six minutes from time, the frustration appeared to get the better of goalkeeper Gary Maguire, who pulled wildly on John Coady and received a straight red card. Denis Murphy opted to take a point from the resultant penalty and when he added a free to bring his tally to nine, the margin was five.
Ryan converted a penalty before Niall McMorrow found himself clean through but Foley was out quickly to deflect the shot bravely away.
“As a group, we had the ambition when we came out of Carlow that we wanted to give Leinster a crack,” said Mullally. “We’ve been presented with an opportunity now. Coming through any semi-final in any competition is good. The fact that it’s a Leinster competition puts added importance to it. We’re obviously delighted, thrilled with it.
“To come out of it is a great testament to the players, their attitude and their character.”
Scorers for Mount Leinster Rangers: D Murphy (0-9, 7fs, 1 65, 1 pen), E Byrne (1-2), Derek Byrne (0-3), Diarmuid Byrne (s/l), P Coady, J Coady (0-1 each).
Scorers for Ballyboden St Enda’s: P Ryan (1-4, 1-0 pen, 2fs), C McCormack (1-2), G Corrigan (1-1), C Keaney, F McGarry (0-1 each).
MOUNT LEINSTER RANGERS: F Foley; G Kelly, G Doyle, M Doyle; Diarmuid Byrne, R Coady, Derek Byrne; E Coady, P Nolan; P Coady, E Byrne, D Phelan; D Murphy, J Coady, E Doyle.
Subs: HP O’Byrne for Phelan (38), W Hickey for J Coady (60+1), J Hickey for Derek Byrne (60+2).
BALLYBODEN ST ENDA’S: G Maguire; S O’Connor, D Curran, M Travers; S Hiney, T Sweeney, C Robinson; S Durkin, N McMorrow; C Keaney, D Curtin, C McCormack; G Corrigan, P Ryan, F McGarry.
Subs: M Nagle for Robins (41), D Sweeney for McGarry (41), J Roche for Curtin (49), C Dooley for Corrigan (52).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).
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