MICK O’DEA admits to knowing little about Mount Leinster Rangers, but one thing the Robert Emmetts’ manager does know is that his side won’t be underestimating the challenge of the Carlow and Leinster kingpins.
While neither Carlow nor London are traditional hurling powerhouses, the champions of both counties are expected to serve up a thrilling encounter when they meet on Sunday.
“I don’t have much information about them at all but they must be decent if they’ve won a Leinster title,” said O’Dea of Sunday’s opponents. “They played a couple of challenge games against WIT recently and beat them but that’s basically all I know. But they’ll be good, make no mistake about that.”
Mount Leinster Rangers, who have won four of the last six Carlow SHC titles, defeated Kildare champions Celbridge to win their first ever provincial crown in November, but it was their semi-final victory that really proved their credentials.
They travelled to Nowlan Park and recorded a two-point win over a Danesfort side that contained Richie Hogan and Paul Murphy, both of whom had picked up All-Star awards a fortnight earlier in recognition of their performances for All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in 2011.
Mick O’Dea led Robert Emmetts to All-Ireland glory in 2007, whereas this is unchartered territory for Mount Leinster Rangers following their maiden Leinster title triumph. Nevertheless, O’Dea believes the Carlow side will see themselves as favourites.
He said: “I think they will. There’s that thing of clubs in Ireland always expecting to beat a London team, and maybe we’ve proved that wrong in the past a few times.
But they’re also able to get challenge games of a higher level on a more regular basis, whereas we’re doing our best to get a couple of games from London and we know all those lads anyway. It’s hard to know but I’d say they’d definitely be at a bit of an advantage.”
The Robert Emmetts players were given a three-week break over Christmas but they returned to training on January 5 “in fine fettle”, according to O’Dea.
“We played challenge games against London over the last two weekends. When you’re over here that’s the very best you can get in terms of match practice. Those games were great, very beneficial. The boys came back from their break full of beans and everything has gone well so we couldn’t have any complaints whatsoever.”
One of O’Dea’s major concerns is his side’s lack of killer instinct. Emmetts squandered several goal chances in their two-point quarter-final win against a Moycullen side who shouldn’t have stayed within touching distance until the final whistle.
“On the law of averages, surely it’s going to come right for us at some stage,” said O’Dea. “If it does, I could see us hitting three or four. We’ve been creating all the goal chances under the sun but we haven’t been getting that last stroke to get it into the net. But if we get a bit of lady luck I definitely think we have a few goals in us. Hopefully that’ll happen on Sunday.”
The Cork native added: “It would be a disappointment if it was to end for us on Sunday, particularly with the team we have because teams like that don’t come along very often. But the margins are very tight at this stage.
“In 2007 we won the quarter-final and semi-final by only a point. Games like this can go either way and they can be decided by the puck of a ball going a couple of inches wide. A puck of a ball can be the difference between you being disappointed or over the moon with happiness. It’s a thin line and I really don’t think there’ll be much in it on Sunday either.”
At stake is an All-Ireland final meeting with Effin (Limerick) or Middletown Na Fianna (Armagh) at Croke Park on February 11.