The drive and vision of the Rower-Inistioge management team was lauded by over the moon team captain, Micheal Grace following their thrilling victory in the Leinster club intermediate hurling final.
“The last month or so since winning the Kilkenny title has been the best time of my life,” beamed Grace, a former Kilkenny panelist. “We won the county final. We are going back senior for the first time in 25 years. We could have celebrated and left it at that.
“Great credit to the management of Ger Morrissey, Pat Dunphy and Robbie Hennessy they weren’t satisfied. They had us back training the following Sunday morning before the county minor final. There is great drive in the team. It comes from the three boys.”
Michael hugged the winners trophy like a child cuddles a soft toy. It was a great feeling, he smiled.
“These days don’t come too often,” he continued. “Henry Shefflin once said in a Kilkenny dressing-room that we should win all we can. At 31 I had nothing with the club until now. I am delighted.
“This is the best Christmas present we could get. We will have some Christmas now. This is what you dream about.”
Michael said the Rower will take on the challenge of the All-Ireland series, and nothing would be left to chance. A first cousin of his, Pat Grace is playing with Youghal (Cork) in the same competition and they are going to London next weekend to play. The Youghal manager, Christy Cooney was in the attendance on Sunday.
“It would be great for the family if both of us get to the All-Ireland final,” Michael said. “Look, that is a long way off, but stranger things have happened.”
“All this is unbelievable for us,” he enthused. “You train with these lads from under-9 up; you go to school with them; you argue with them; you go out with them. To win with your own club is wonderful, unreal.”
He said the commitment from both sides was absolute. Kilkenny teams never expect anything ease in Wexford.
“We are a different team now,” the speedy attacker continued. “There is a bit of mental steel in the team that a few years ago wasn’t there. Thomastown scored three goals against us in the Kilkenny championship and we could have dropped the heads. We didn’t. St Patrick’s scored a goal in the opening minutes against us and we got up and got on with things. Emeralds put it up to us in the county final and we won.
“We are different this year. Hopefully that difference will make a difference. The longer we can stay in this competition the better it will serve us next season. Look at what involvement in the club championship has done for Clara and Mount Leinster Rangers?
“We were saying two years ago ‘imaging playing in a Leinster final’. Now we have won a Leinster final. The longer we stay in this the more it will help us to develop as a team.”
Hard going attacker and match star, Joe Lyng, said the contest was really tough, with the home crowd like a 16th man for Buffers Alley.
“In the second half we got a bit of a run on them, but again our backs never gave them a sniff,” he smiled. “It was a dogged effort all the way, for every ball. We knew it would be. They are a very physical team, and we knew we would have to stand up to them.
“Fair play to boys, they dug out the win. It is the best feeling every winning something with your club. In the first game of the year against St Lachtain’s all we wanted to do was win the match. Now look where we are, champions in Leinster.
“There was nothing pretty about us this year. Other times we have looked good but we didn’t finish the job. This season it has all been about hard work.”