Carrickshock captain, John Tennyson
Carrickshock had enough of being second best in finals, and Croke Park was going to be their proving ground.
That was the defiant message drilled home by delighted captain, John Tennyson, after the club put the disappointment of defeats in finals in the past well and truly behind them when winning the All-Ireland club intermediate final.
“It was easy in the end,” John admitted, “but we weren't to know that and we really worked for this. We have left a lot of matches behind us over the years.
“The last time we were in this final we lost. We said today that come hell or high water we were going to do ourselves justice and give a performance.
“The performance was produced and it was good enought to give us a big win. Winning is a great, great performance.”
He said the feeling in the camp was that Carrickshock would cut loose some day, and someone would feel the pain of it. Saturday everything came right.
“We were getting along, but we weren't as fluent as we could be,” John said of some earlier form.
“In fairness, we were getting jobs done, but we felt there was a big performance in us.
“I know Ahascragh probably felt they didn't play well. That is not our fault.
“This win will give us a big boost in confidence returning to the senior division in Kilkenny. It is a big ask to do anything there, but we mean to be competitive.”
The team, the squad, has improved since winning the intermediate championship last October, he insisted.
“It has changed in several good ways,” the former Kilkenny star continued.
“For a long time we were dependent on maybe Richie (Power) to get scores. There is a better spread now, and the young lads coming in have really taken on responsibility and let rip.”
He said the likes of Kevin Farrell, Damien Walsh, James Grace, all the young lads who came, have done some job.
“They are the men who are driving things on now,” John insisted. “We, the older lads, are tipping along but the energy from the younger crew is helping to lift us all. They are making the hard yards.”
He said the selectors (Tommy Shefflin, Pat Fennelly and Larry O'Shea) know the squad better now, and how to get the best form it.
“We have a squad,” John insisted. “Now we have a very competitive panel. There is a tremendous spirit in the panel. No one sulks if they are dropped. There is no bitterness.
“Everyone rolls in together for the good of the group. You need a spirit like that to be successful. The camaraderie and togetherness are top class. Everyone has enjoyed the journey.
“To be standing here victorious after all the years of hardship and hurt is great,” he said as we spoke on the Croke Park pitch. “It is great to come back to Croke Park and do this.
“Since 2010 we have had some woeful downs. Maybe we left a few titles behind us. They are gone forever. They can never be retrieved. This is nice. This is very nice.”
One time Kilkenny colleague, John Dalton was simply bursting with pride.
“A lot of people might say this is only intermediate, but this is massive for us,” he beamed. “Our club never got anything like this. We aimed for it. We went for it.
“We have had a lot of losses over the years, but this is tremendous. You can only win what is in front of you. This was in front of us today, and we won it.
“We caught the game from the throw-in. If we could do things like that a bit more often we would be right. We are delighted with this.”
He was sure the success would boost the confidence of the players and help them on their return to the senior championship.
“The run in this championship has kept the players together and hurling,” he continued. “The training, the coming together, the matches have been so enjoyable for the group throughout the Winter.
“We are enjoying our hurling. Hopefully we can continue to enjoy it.”
What was it like coming back to Croke Park as a player?
“I would come back here every day if I could,” he laughed. “You could feel something special on the bus.
“It was like a cloud was coming down over us, but a good cloud. The hair was standing on the back of my neck coming into this place.
“You could see it in the players in the dressing-room, they were ready to let rip. We have had a lot of heartache. Everyone knows that.
“Maybe we were using that heartache as a crutch, but we really, really wanted this.”