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Talk of ‘redemption’ for 2018 defeat was not a factor for Kilmacud Crokes – Rory O’Carroll

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Kilmacud Crokes defender Rory O'Carroll (on right) celebrates with some of his team-mates following Saturday night's AIB Leinster Club SFC final victory over Naas in Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile

Kilmacud Crokes defender Rory O'Carroll (on right) celebrates with some of his team-mates following Saturday night's AIB Leinster Club SFC final victory over Naas in Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile

Kilmacud Crokes defender Rory O'Carroll (on right) celebrates with some of his team-mates following Saturday night's AIB Leinster Club SFC final victory over Naas in Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile

Rory O’Carroll was living abroad, 11,000 miles from Tullamore, when Kilmacud Crokes were beaten there in 2018 by Mullinalaghta, so he went unharmed by the nuclear fallout.

However, he is not the sort to get snagged on the past anyway. Or one who pays undue heed to the future. So that defeat was never likely to weigh heavily.

But for obvious reasons, it swirled around the minds of a few of his teammates last week.

“You can’t replace a championship. That championship is gone,” he stressed after collecting his latest provincial club honours on Saturday evening. “It’s done and dusted. You can’t replace it. You just have to move on and keep looking forward.

“Maybe there was a bit of redemption for some people on an individual level,” O’Carroll (below) admitted, “but it wasn’t really a collective thing.”

Not that the occasion of another Leinster final wasn’t without potential distractions.

On Saturday in Croke Park, O’Carroll (below) put thoughts of the looming birth of a child out of his head to help Crokes win a fifth provincial title in their history.

“Someone was winding him up saying the baby was born during the match, so he nearly had a heart attack after the game,” laughed Crokes manager Robbie Brennan afterwards.

As it went, O’Carroll’s influence was branded all over their win.

Most impressive among Crokes’ achievements on the night was holding Naas scoreless for the entire second half. In this, he was an instrumental part.

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His return from New Zealand has had a regenerative effect on Crokes in the years since their last Leinster final appearance.

Kilmacud have lost key men in Cian O’Sullivan, Pat Burke and David Nestor since the end of 2020 and the injury that forced Paul Mannion out on Saturday – and most likely for their All-Ireland campaign – might have been terminal.

Instead, they just leant on another multi-medalled former Dublin star.

“He’s just unreal,” said Brennan, almost exasperated at O’Carroll’s contribution.

“I don’t know, what do you say about him? I know he missed a couple of years out when he was away, but he looks as fresh as a daisy to me playing.”

Since his return to the Dublin set-up after three years spent far from home, O’Carroll has been a low-use member of the Dublin panel. Indeed after limited

game-time in 2019 and 2020, he was not part of the squad last year.

It’s probably fair to say his return to the Dublin panel at 29 didn’t work out as either party had intended. But he has thrown himself completely back into the Crokes cause now and the results are self-evident.

“When you play inter-county, you kind of feel … not that it’s your fault … but the club game gets neglected,” he noted. “And that’s probably due to the systems in place, the fixtures list and the calendar.

“Thankfully, things look like they’re going to get better in the future. Hopefully, they’ll stay that way. So yeah, just over the moon.

“As Paul Mannion said to us before the game, there’s no bigger and better stage than coming into Croke Park with your club, fighting for a championship trophy.

Enjoy

“So yeah, I didn’t think that it was going to happen,” he admitted. “But the fact that it did, I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Crokes play freshly minted Connacht champions Pádraig Pearses on January 29 in an All-Ireland club semi-final and if these are familiar surroundings for O’Carroll, they’re hardly comparable circumstances.

Before becoming Pat Gilroy’s first-choice full-back, he rose to prominence during Kilmacud’s last All-Ireland club-winning campaign in 2009 in what Brennan noted were simpler times.

When a ringing phone didn’t prompt an immediate feeling of dread.

“Every time the phone rings or texts ... you’re waiting for news,” the manager admitted of the current infection situation.

“It’s torture. We had one or two (affected by Covid) and then one who we thought was positive and it turned out he wasn’t. So it’s fluid and it’s changing every single minute and no doubt the next two or three weeks will be the same, we’ll be second-guessing every second move.

“But look,” he added, “you can’t lock them up.”


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