'Just delighted for this group of girls'
There's a good chance Mick O'Rourke aged a few years quicker than expected on Sunday given the high drama played out in Roundwood between his wonderful footballers and their Meath opponents in the Leinster football championship.
It's been an exceptional year for the Wicklow ladies side and credit must go to O'Rourke and his management team for the role they have played in bringing the huge potential out of the still unbeaten Garden County side.
As always, when interviewed post game, O'Rourke heaps praise on his charges and celebrates the bond that this group of players have created as they go in search of footballing success in every single game they play.
"Just delighted for this group of girls," he said shortly after the final whistle on Sunday. "They worked so hard, they trained so hard, bonded so well, they did it all through the league and they were coming into this game on a high. I know a lot of people had us as underdogs, but, in fairness to these girls, they are the only unbeaten side in the country so far between league and everything else, so they brought that to this game. No matter what, Meath had been beaten in a league final, it does take an effect on a team, and we knew that we had a chance against Meath. Yes, at the end of the day they are Leinster champions, they got to the All-Ireland semi-final last year, but the girls knew coming into this that they could come off the high of winning the league and they carried that into today in fairness to them," he added.
Having turned in a superb first half performance against the visitors from Meath, what was said at the break as they prepared to go back out and face the inevitable Meath onslaught.
"I suppose, psychologically, obviously we could only have been in a good place (at half-time), but we knew there was going to be a second half, we knew Meath would come back at us, so realistically the girls knew it was starting 0-0 again and we had to go. We knew Meath would come with something, they're not Leinster champions for nothing, and they did come, but, in fairness, when they did come and got that but ahead the girls dig deep and responded again," he said.
There's just no denying that this camp is in a wonderful place. They bring a steadily growing fanbase around with them, the roars that greet the magnificent scores are getting louder and louder with each passing game. It may be a small panel, but it's a strong panel and a panel that the management trusts and believes in without a shadow of a doubt.
"I keep preaching it, but this group of girls work as hard as any other team in this county," said Mick O'Rourke. "They've bonded so well, you've probably noticed we haven't got a huge amount of subs, but listen, we have trust in every single player in this squad and that shows when you can bring on players to do a job and there's other girls on the sideline we could have brought on but it was just running such a tight game it was always going to be very hard to be thrown into a melting pot," he said.
He might not receive the plaudits for the decisions but O'Rourke's deployment of Claire Walsh and Saoirse O'Reilly from the bench were huge factors in the winning of this game. The Wicklow boss said that both girls had made sacrifices to be where they were at the final whistle.
"Two girls that themselves made sacrifices to be here. Claire approached us after the league final to see if she could come back because she was with the Irish soccer set up and she wanted to leave that to come to Wicklow ladies football and that I think shows in itself how much she missed being part of this family.
"Saoirse starts her Leaving Cert on Wednesday, but from the word go, both her and her parents have said she wanted to be part of today and, in fairness, when she came on she very much became part of today," he added