Having had time to draw breath after a frantic end to the Laois SHC final, Rathdowney-Errill manager Frank McGrath was left with mixed emotions.
Having watched his side build up a five point lead with three minutes to go, he was left waiting for a late point to then keep his team in the championship. It was a bizzarre sequence of events, and McGrath was disappointed not to have closed out the game. “When you are five points up with a few minutes to go, you expect to go on and win the game, but we have seen Ballacolla in all of their games up to this, and we knew Ballacolla wouldn’t give up.
“They threw everything at us in the last few minutes. We were nearly there, but we had to dig deep ourselves, in the last minute we had to dig out an equalising score. There is great credit due to the players, and it is probably the experience gained over the years.
“The two Mahons were to the fore there, they worked the ball up the field, and then one of the younger guys pops it over the bar. The dressing room inside, it doesn’t know what way to be, but I can guarantee you we’ll be back here next weekend and we’ll be ready to go again”
The game itself had failed to live up to expectations, with both teams looking tense and very little in the way of open, fluid hurling on display. Even the crowd failed to get into the game, with large spells being played in near silence, and the Rathdowney-Errill manager felt the pressure may have fotten to both teams. “It’s a tense occasion, the conditions weren’t brilliant for playing either, but Ballacolla were finding it hard to score and we were finding it hard to score as well, the defences were strong for both sides. Maybe in the last ten minutes the tension eased up and the scores seemed to come a bit more freely.”
He also felt the month delay waiting for the final hadn’t helped either team. “You’re four weeks waiting for a competitive game, that’s not ideal at any stage, but maybe next week the teams will come back and hurl with a bit more freedom, but I wouldn’t be certain that they will.
“I think this is going to be a tough, tough game again next week, there won’t be much in it, there will be nothing soft, the two back lines will still be two good back lines, and the forwards will have to work hard to get anything out of it.”
The manager also reserved praise for Ross King, who held his nerve in the final minute to earn a replay. While his performance may have surprised some spectators, for McGrath it was just an extension of what he sees in training every week. “Everybody knows Ross King is a very exciting talent, he pops them over in training regularly and out there it was the same thing, and it was brilliant to see him do it under a little bit of pressure.”
Having had to wait a month for this game, the season rumbles on for another while now, and McGrath confessed it was the outcome he wasn’t expecting. “The one thing you don’t prepare for coming into a game is for it to finish all square, you win or you lose, that’s normally what happens. You’re ecstatic if you win, but you’re the other direction if you lose, but we’re still in it, it’s only half time, and whenever the replay is, we’ll be back and ready to go again.”