I always believed we could beat the Dubs – English
ALL last week in Carlow, U-21 hurling manager Pat English told anyone who would listen that the Leinster quarter-final against Dublin was more than an exercise in fulfilling a fixture.
It was brave talk, given the opposition. Dublin have claimed the Leinster minor title for the last two years and contested the All-Ireland final twice in the last three years.
What's more, they boasted senior footballers Ciaran Kilkenny and Cormac Costello in their numbers as well as Danny Sutcliffe, who played so well against Kilkenny's Tommy Walsh in the Allianz League.
For their part, Carlow started with two minors in their ranks and a total of five players who are in the middle of their Leaving Cert. They were also without captain Sean Murphy.
Dublin should have been on their guard after being ambushed by Laois in this competition last year.
English (above), who helped Tom Mulally's team to the county's first All-Ireland U-21 'B' title in 2008, replaced Waterford's Paul Flynn in the hot seat at the start of this year and didn't know exactly what to expect.
"You have to believe in your players. Over the last month I had seen them develop. I had seen them stand out in club games," he said.
There are just eight hurling clubs in Carlow, all of who ply their trade in Kilkenny. In the interest of numbers, the county U-21 and senior panels train together and six of English's squad are regularly involved with Tom Meyler's senior side.
"We had no fear going into the game and got a break with the late goal," said English. "Now it's about the next day. People can get carried away in Carlow but the players won't. It has people talking about hurling, though, which is great."
Carlow will welcome Wexford to Dr Cullen Park on Wednesday week as they bid for their first provincial title in the grade.
English's Wexford connections are strong. His late father Jim, a Rathnure native, captained the Slaneysiders to the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1956 and picked up two more winner's medals before serving as chairman of the Carlow County Board after work took him to Bagenalstown.
"There'll be no divided loyalties – I've been in Carlow all my life," English smiled. "We're expecting a much tougher test, I'd imagine they'll be more physical but we'll work hard again and see where that brings us."