And the Laois hurling season just keeps on giving.
The Rathdowney-Errill supporters might have to root out their warmest winter coats but with a Leinster championship semi-final to look forward to in two weeks time against Carlow champions St Mullins in Netwatch Cullen Park, they won’t mind in the slightest being out in the cold.
They did beat Westmeath champions Clonkill in 2012 but after losses to Rathnure in 2006, Ballyhale Shamrocks in 2008, O’Loughlin Gaels in 2010, Kilcormac-Killoughey in 2012 and Kilmacud Crokes in 2014 they took something of a scalp in O’Moore Park on Sunday when they beat Offaly champions St Rynagh’s of Banagher by an incredible 18 points.
And manager John Delaney was thrilled afterwards as he looked back on a fine performance and win, even if he was quick to acknowledge that the final scoreline of 4-16 to 0-10 was scarcely reflective of the big battle they’d been in.
His side’s unbeaten championship run in 2019 continues but he feels the pressure is gone now that they’re out of Laois.
“I felt with the boys during the week, they’ll never be under the same pressure as they were this year in Laois. They could have lost three county finals in a row which would have been huge for Rathdowney-Errill
“And in the semi-final Camross were going to beat us maybe eight times in a row. That is huge pressure for all the talent we have in the team but when you marry talent with effort and heart it’s unbelievable – they’re very good lads.
“It was a very tough day for hurling and the game was tight for a long time. But you just have to keep going and keep going and that’s what this team is doing the whole year.”
Delaney felt that Rathdowney-Errill put in good performances previously in Leinster – losing only after extra time to Kilmacud Crokes five years ago and only narrowly to Kilcormac-Killoughey in a Leinster semi-final two years previously – the Offaly side later going on to reach the All Ireland final on St Patrick’s Day.
“We’ve always performed in Leinster but I said during the week that I’m sick of what could have or what could happen. We just had to get over the line some way. That was a tough dogged affair today but we came out on top and I’m delighted.”
Delaney reckons that they’re “a team that doesn’t suit this time of year in a way but you have to dig in, you can’t do anything about the weather”.
And he’s not falling into the complacency trap by thinking that with two-time All Ireland champions Cuala gone, Rathdowney-Errill will be favourites against St Mullins in two weeks time.
“OK Cuala are gone but St Mullins beat Mount Leinster Rangers. “We played them during the year and I was sure they were going to have a real whack at the Leinster championship. I can guarantee you that will be another battle (against St Mullins).”
And he had special praise for John Purcell – now playing at corner-back having previously played on every line of the field and a part of all of the club’s six Laois senior hurling titles – and Joe Fitzpatrick and Brian Campion.
“John was always a super hurler and Brian Campion and Joe Fitzpatrick – they’re legends of the club. 35 years of age and they’ve hardly missed a night’s training between them.
“It’s great for those lads. Before they went out today it might have been the last time they played in a Leinster club so they put in huge effort.
“But they’re all standing up and the year just keeps getting better for Laois hurling. We shouldn’t be afraid of anybody.”