Carlow trailblazers hold heads high in defeat
MATHS teacher Denis Murphy will be back in school again tomorrow and David Phelan will be up even earlier to milk the cows on the family dairy farm,.
When Mount Leinster Rangers turned the final page of their lengthy fairytale yesterday it wasn't the ending their hearts desired. They were beaten by the superior craft and experience of a team with household names who had already won three All-Ireland club finals.
But the little Carlow club of trailblazers died with their boots on and never looked over-awed or over-run, as has happened previous underdogs on St Patrick's Day.
They'll turn back from superheroes to mere mortals again, with ordinary lives to resume and livings to be earned.
But life, and the reputation of Carlow hurling, will never be quite the same again after their remarkable run and for that many owe them a debt, not just within their own county. Even in defeat they continued to show real class.
"It's one of those years that will live in the memory forever and 99.99pc of that is down to the players," said their manager Tom Mullally, declining to get sucked into the controversy over Edward Coady's dismissal and praising Portumna's ability to kick on in the second half.
"Today might not have worked out for us but it's the first day it hasn't so we can't give out too much," he said.
"Our hurling let us down a little at times," he added. "It could have been the occasion and small decisions here and there but it's like anything, things go right and wrong for you over the course of the 60 minutes and we just fell short today."
Last winter, one Cork delegate likened Carlow hurlers questioning the format of next season's National League to "Jedward telling Pavarotti how to sing".
Asked if their journey and yesterday's gutsy climax might end such hurling snobbery, Mount Leinster's captain proved himself equally classy, drawing a strong distinction between club and county.
"You're going to see that (attitude) with the smaller counties I suppose but this is club hurling, it's nothing to do with Carlow hurling or Cork hurling," Phelan demurred.
"At the end of the day this is one club against another club. We proved it to all the small clubs in the country, that if they believe hard enough they can get to the big day and we, or they, can get across the line the next time."
The memories will long sustain them.
"Ten buses went from Borris this morning and it's a very small place," reflected free-taker Murphy (23) afterwards, torn between disgust at losing and wonderment at their support.
"Coming over and seeing everyone at the end and getting a standing ovation was very moving. Right through the campaign they've been fantastic. I suppose everyone likes the underdog and we probably out-numbered Portumna three or four to one," he noted. "Unfortunately we just couldn't get over that line today, 11 points is not going to win you an All-Ireland final."
Two years ago, when Rangers won the All-Ireland intermediate title, Murphy was studying in Glasgow. He spent two years commuting at weekends to hurl for club and county and only now has he gained recognition on the national stage. That is the attraction and beauty of this great competition.