HE HAS enjoyed the Croke Park experience on All-Ireland final day with Kilkenny and Limerick, but proud Ballyragget man Matt Ruth can’t wait for the day when his beloved club, St Patrick’s, step out on the lush green sward in Dublin.
“That will be a day like no other,” said the thrilled former McCarthy Cup winner. “For me, going to Croke Park with my club is just fantastic. I never thought I would see the day.
“It is great that we are there, and not just for the club, but for the whole parish. It will be a big, big occasion.”
The Ballyragget outfit booked a place in the All-Ireland club junior hurling final against Charleville (Cork) on Saturday, February 11 but they will be hoping for better luck than O’Loughlin Gaels (senior), John Lockes of Callan (junior) and Dicksboro (intermediate), who were all beaten in the club deciders 12 months ago.
Semis are for winning
“There is nothing wrong with winning an All-Ireland semi-final like that,” said Mr Ruth, a McCarthy Cup winner in 1975, 1979 and 1982 and coach with St Patrick’s, after the team struggled a bit in the end before toppling Ballygar (Galway) in a topsy-turvy semi-final on Sunday.
“We had to come through a battle in the end. We put pressure on ourselves in some ways. Maybe we were a bit complacent, but Ballygar were a big, strong team. They were physically stronger than us.”
Mr Ruth said St Pat’s were delighted to get through to the final, irrespective of the performance.
“Semi-finals are for winning,” he insisted. “It doesn’t matter what way you win once you do. We played well for a good bit of the match. That shouldn’t be forgotten.
“Every time we came under pressure we were able to come back and get a score. We made a few bad mistakes and used the ball badly at times. Still, it is good to have something to work on during the few weeks leading up to the final. Few teams get everything right in semi-finals.”
Mr Ruth said “hopefully” St Patrick’s will improve for the final. He felt it was great for any club to be going to Croke Park to play in an All-Ireland final.
“We are all looking forward to it. There will be a great old buzz about the town for the next few weeks. But is not all about the occasion, it is about winning a national title.
Croker might suit the team
“Croke Park might suit our team,” he suggested. “The big pitch and firm sod should suit our style of play, but that alone won’t win the game for us. We will haves to be at our very best if we are to win.
“Lads need not think that it will all happen automatically. We didn’t know much about Ballygar. They were very, very strong. I think we did well to come through in the end, even if we were well ahead at one stage.
“We faded a bit, but that is something we can work on. Ours is an evolving team. A lot of the players are young and inexperienced. At the end they hadn’t the strength to cope because the match became so physical.”
He reminded that St Patrick’s had a great rhythm going before the Christmas break, so maybe the lay-off of a few weeks worked against them.
“Time will tell,” he added. “Hopefully there is another good match in the team. We made some silly mistakes, like giving away frees and being called up for making wrong hand-passes. That can be dangerous.
“Maybe we took our eye off the ball when we were well ahead, thinking we were already there. It is all to play for. It is all down to Cork and ourselves, but is it a nice place to be looking forward to your club playing in an All-Ireland final.”