Leinster's mould-breaker O'Brien inspiring Carlow -- Redmond
CARLOW have been using a secret and formidable weapon in their bid to beat Wexford tomorrow -- European rugby's Player of the Year Sean O'Brien.
A former Gaelic player himself and avid Carlow supporter, the Leinster flanker also has his own 'Get Fit Boot Camp' business, and county football boss Luke Dempsey brought the 'Tullow Tank' in to ramp up his side's fitness ahead of the quarter-final against Louth.
Centre-back and captain Shane Redmond says the local back-row star is the perfect inspiration for them, considering how he has broken the mould in his own sport by not coming through the traditional 'schools' route to rugby stardom.
"I'd say Seanie would have been kind of discriminated against, in the sense that he was from Carlow, trying to make it on to a Leinster squad that was 90pc Blackrock or whatever," Redmond said.
"It's a similar situation with us, because we're Carlow and no one gives us a chance, and we have to break our own mould, so it's great for us to have someone like him around."
Redmond is certainly dividing his family's loyalties this weekend.
Both of his parents are from Wexford, where "90pc" of his relatives hail from. He spent most his childhood holidays down there and passionately followed Wexford's All-Ireland-winning hurlers in 1996.
Furthermore, Wexford footballer Adrian Morrissey is his second cousin.
"I've got tickets for the match for a lot of my Wexford cousins but only on the basis that they wear Carlow jerseys for the day!" he said with a grin.
And Redmond is not the only Carlow player with some connections in the enemy camp.
Daniel St Ledger's father is from New Ross and the Carlow back-room team includes two men who have played senior football for Wexford; football liaison officer John Dunphy and team medic Dr Tom Foley.
Redmond, St Ledger and Gary Nolan of this Carlow side all know Wexford attacking ace Ciaran Lyng well as they've played Sigerson Cup football together with UCD.
And even though they've had little senior success yet, 10 of Dempsey's side have played in Croke Park before.
Redmond played there twice in 2007 with the minor team that reached the Leinster final and is relishing the chance to line out in HQ again.
"It's where you dream of playing when you're growing up. As a kid, you see yourself having the glory days there, but we have to look at it as just another football pitch where we've a match to play," he stressed.
"We had a reasonable enough league and were a little bit disappointed not to get promotion, but beating Louth outshone everything and hopefully we'll outdo that again on Sunday."