A season of highs that produced a hat trick of championship titles earlier was rounded off in grand style by the Rower-Inistioge.
Victories in the Kilkenny junior football, plus the intermediate and minor hurling championships were followed by the club’s first success in Leinster, and thrilled manager Ger Morrissey hit the nail on the head when he insisted: “This is the best Christmas present any of us could have asked for.”
The Rower’s victory over utterly determined Buffers Alley (Wexford) in Enniscorthy on Sunday rounded off a season of highs for the Southern outfit, who are already looking forward to the All-Ireland series in the new year.
“To come to an intimidating place like Enniscorthy, the stronghold of the United Irishmen, where you get nothing soft, and win took a huge effort,” the mangaer continued. “We didn’t expect anything soft. They made it hard for us. They are a lovely team, a beautiful team.
“They were worth their three point lead at half-time. We had a good, storming second half, particularly at the beginning. They came back into it, but we held them off. To win is just fantastic.”
The winners defence, the manager felt, was superb again.
“It is a given that they will perform,” he suggested. “We know we won’t ever give away a lot. Our forwards never gave up. We tried all sorts of combinations. Conor Joyce picked up a bit of a hamstring injury. We brought in Tom Murphy and Paul Sheehan came back in.
“It just wasn’t happening for our attack. But I always think of a glass being half full rather than half empty. There was plenty of ball going into the forwards. Yes, a lot of it was coming out and you could say the ’Alley were having a good time of it, but our backs were holding the forth.
“At that crucial time in the game during the last quarter it was just a case of getting one score. That might spark anything. Then if you could put another one with it anything could happen. The ’Alley upped their game during the middle part of the second half.
“We couldn’t make gains against them. I felt that all the knocking on the door would lead to something for us, a goal, a point, whatever. It was almost like a football match in which possession counts. You just keep working. Things came right for us in the end. We did something the same in the county final as well.”
The players, he continued, have a near unbreakable spirit.
“We have worked on that since the beginning of the year,” the CBS school teacher continued. “Rower teams in the past were good hurling teams. They were this, that and the other, always knocking on the door. However, the finish push that was needed and which comes with a never say did spirit wasn’t always there.
“The players have that this year. They have it in abundance. Then again, you need a bit of luck too to help things go for you. We have enjoyed that too.
“You trace wins back and you think ‘yes, it was your man putting up his hand, getting a slap and getting the free or whatever’ that make a difference. Small things make bigger things happen. Being prepared to take little knocks like that for the team can be vital. That attitude can become almost like a habit. It is self sacrifice, really.
“We are after doing something like this in the last three matches - the county final, against Celbridge (Kildare) and again today. You stay going to the end. You work for 60 minutes, maybe 61, 62 or more. Someone has to win the ball in the air. Someone has to drive it in to the danger area. Why not us we say?”
He said it was gret to be looking forward to the All-Ireland series. Once the Rower won the county final, the Leinster title was the target.
“We went back into the dressing-room after beating Emeralds and decided to push on,” the manager revealed. “This is our time, if you like. It has taken us 25 years to get up out of the intermediate grade.
“So, what were we going to do? Leave it at that or put in a bit of hard work? This is tremendous for the club and parish. You can get the feeling everywhere in the parish. It has been an amazing journey for us all this year.”