Carlow champions Mount Leinster Rangers have certainly done their bit to put Carlow hurling on the map having been deservedly crowned Leinster club champions last Sunday.
Their win has earned them the respect their efforts deserve - a respect which is not too forthcoming at inter-county level for the likes of Westmeath and Carlow who are doing their very best to reach the next level in hurling’s hierarchy. The win by the Barrowsiders also offers valuable lessons to hurling folk in the Lake County disappointed at Westmeath’s exclusion from the top tier of the hurling league.
The win over Oulart The Ballagh was extra-sweet for the Barrowsiders given that Wexford was one of the counties that voted against the Westmeath/Carlow proposal that those two counties should be included in a Super 14 style league format. Prior to the vote Wexford had indicated that they would support the proposal but changed their mind on the day. That decision cost both Westmeath and Carlow the opportunity to play in the top tier of the league and certainly didn’t endear the Yellow-bellies to hurling folk in either county.
No doubt that fact provided extra motivation to the Carlow representatives who could call on eight of the county senior squad. The win is testament to the progress that is being made in promoting hurling in Carlow. It won’t alter the decision of central council but at a time when numerous counties are reportedly questioning the viability of fielding a county senior hurling side it puts the spotlight on whether or not enough is being done at inter-county level to reward the likes of Carlow and Westmeath who are bucking the trend.
A relatively inexperienced Castletown-Geoghegan side (without Joe Clarke ) ran the provincial champions mighty close in the quarter-final. They should take great encouragement from this, as should the likes of Clonkill, Raharney, and Oliver Plunketts who should now redouble their efforts to reach the next level just as Garrycastle did in the other code two years ago.
Despite all of the lip service, hurling in the likes of Westmeath and Carlow is still well down the pecking order in terms of Croke Park priorities and there’s little point complaining. Action will speak louder than words. Mount Leinster Rangers have stood up and been counted and they’re not finished yet. There is no reason a Westmeath club can’t do likewise next year. In the meantime the pressure is on Brian Hanley’s men to do their bit for the cause when the league gets up and running in February.